Why Your Mobile Phone Doesn’t Have A Dial Tone

Why Your Mobile Phone Doesn’t Have A Dial Tone

In addition to the long curly cords, and the part where they are permanently attacked to a wall, old-fashioned landlines have something else that we’ve lost in the mobile phone revolution: a dial tone. What happened to that thing?

Dan Goldin of Makers Alley just happened to be reading The Idea Factory when he came upon a passage that addresses just that and was nice enough to share it with us all.

From the book:

Meanwhile, Phil Porter, who had worked with [Richard] Frenkiel on the original system, came up with a permanent answer to an interesting question. Should a cellular phone have a dial tone? Porter made a radical suggestion that it shouldn’t. A caller should dial a number and then push “send.” That way, the mobile caller would be less rushed; also, the call would be connected for a shorter time, thus putting less strain on the network. That this idea-dial, then send-would later prove crucial to texting technology was not even considered.

Typing everything in and hitting enter may seem like second nature to us tech-savvy folks, but it’s weird to think that the change was actually an explicit choice, even a jarring on to older folks; phones like the Jitterbug still go out of their way to emulate a dial tone for old time’s sake.

Today’s phones don’t need a tone since they can parse and send numbers all at once instead of one at a time, so it would have been silly to keep it around. But still, it’s a little bit sad to think that it’s gone for good. [Dan Goldin]