Early Instructional Videos for Using a Rotary Phone

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A couple of weeks ago, we posted a hilarious and adorable video of children reacting to rotary phones. Most of them, raised on iDevices, had no idea how to use it.

It seems silly—and definitely makes us feel old—but the kids aren't alone in their confusion. Based on these early instructional videos, it seems like our ancestors were also pretty puzzled by rotary phones.

"How to Use the Dial Phone"

This 7-minute-long film, circa 1927, announced that "dial telephones will be placed in service at Midnight—Saturday, May 28th." It likely referred to Western Electric's Model 102, which was the first widely distributed telephone set, and stressed not using the new blue directory until midnight on May 28. (Seriously, don't do it until then!)

"How to Dial a Rotary Phone"

There's no date on this film, but it was apparently shown in movie theaters. It helpfully provides examples for the audience of what the dial tone, ringing, and busy signal sound like.

"Dialing Tips"

This video, from the '50s, gives users tips for how to use a rotary phone without making mistakes, which, according to the helpful woman from "your telephone company," both "waste and lot of time" and "can cause someone else to be inconvenienced and probably irritated." Tips include: Make sure you have the right number (and use your directory to make doubly sure); write that number down, which saves time; bring your finger around until it firmly touches the finger stop, and then let go; let the dial go back by itself; and know the difference between O and 0. She uses a huge demonstration model to show the audience how it's done.