The rotary-dial telephone and how we use it (1951)

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The Telephone & How We Use It (from 1951)
“The Telephone and How We Use It” was published by Bell Telephone System in 1951, and slightly revised versions were used well into the 1960s. Geared toward children, the booklet covers the basics of how to use a rotary-dial telephone — the latest technology of the time.

The Telephone & How We Use It (from 1951)

The Telephone and How We Use It

The booklet included these sections:

  • The telephone and its uses
  • Kinds of telephones
  • How to talk on the telephone
  • How to use a dial telephone
  • How to use a telephone without a dial
  • Coin telephones
  • Allow time for answering
  • How to use a telephone book
  • How to get help in making calls
  • Telephone manners
  • Be a good telephone neighbor
  • Suggested activities
  • Personal telephone list

Telephone booklet page slideshow

[portfolio_slideshow id=41154]


The telephone was invented in 1876 by a young man named Alexander Graham Bell. Since then the number of telephones has grown and grown and today there are millions of telephones in America. The United States has more telephones than all the rest of the world. There are telephones everywhere. They make it easy to talk with people a long way off or only across the street.


When using the telephone, hold the receiver close to your ear. Talk directly into the mouthpiece. Speak in a natural, clear voice. You do not have to shout. Speak as though the other person were in the same room.


In some places the dials have only numbers like this. There are also some other types of dials, but all dials work the same way and are easy to use.

Now let’s call John Smith, whose telephone number is COlumbus 6-7790. Notice that the first two letters of COlumbus are in capitals. To call a number on a dial telephone you use only the let- ters in capitals, followed by the figures. So when you call John on a dial telephone, you just dial C-0-6-7-7-9-0 Here is how you dial: First, pick up the telephone. Listen for the dial tone at steady humming sound. If you dial before you hear it, you may get a wrong number or no number at all.

When you hear the dial tone, place your finger in the hole on the dial where “C” is seen. Turn the dial to the right until your finger hits the finger stop. Next, place your finger in the hole where the letter “O” is seen and turn the dial until your finger hits the finger stop. Remove your finger and let the dial click back again. Now dial the numbers 6-7-7-9-0 in the same way.

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Of course, when a telephone number has no letters all you have to dial are the numbers. When you finish dialing, wait a moment and you will hear a brrr brrr sound. This means that the telephone you have called is ringing. Be sure and let the telephone ring long enough to give John time to answer. Then, as soon as John comes to the telephone, you can start talking with him.


When using 8. telephone without a dial, you tell the number you are calling to a telephone operator, instead of turning 81 dial. Let’s call Jane Murray, whose telephone number is COlumbus 6-8722. Here is the way to do ít. Hold the receiver to your ear and you will hear the operator say, “Number, please.” You then say, “COlumbus 6-8722.” Notice that you say the Whole word “COlumbus,” not just the first two letters “CO” which were used on the dial telephone.

At a switchboard, the operator connects your telephone line With Jane’s. When Jane answers her telephone you can start talking with her.

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If the person you are calling does not answer right away, let the telephone ring at least a minute. He or she may be in another part of the house or outdoors. If there is no answer after a minute or so, probably no one is at home; so hang up and try again later.


When you are calling someone, you may hear a buzz-buzz-buzz sound. This is the busy signal, which means that the line you are calling is being used. When you hear this sound, hang up right away and wait for several minutes before calling again.


There are certain numbers which we call quite often, such as those of our friends and relatives. Also, there are numbers we should call in cases of emergency, such as those of our doctor, the drug store, the police and fire departments. It is helpful to keep a list of these numbers near the telephone so that we can look them up quickly and easily before calling.


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If you have looked in the directory and cannot find the number of the person you want to call, you can get his number from the information operator. If your telephone has a dial, the number to dial to reach the information operator is listed in the front part of the directory. If your telephone does not have a dial, ask the operator for “information.”


If you need any other kind of help in making a call, ask the operator. On a dial telephone, she can be reached by dialing the number “0”. Of course, when a telephone has no dial, the Operator answers when you pick up the telephone.

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If you need help in case of an emergency, call the operator. She will be glad to help you. When making an emergency call, be sure to give the address where help is needed. Be calm and talk slowly so you can be understood.


When you telephone, the other person cannot see you. He judges you by your voice. Be natural and polite when using the telephone and you will make a good impression. If you call the wrong number, apologize to the person who answers. Be polite if someone calls your number by mistake.

If you answer a call for some other member of your family, say, “Just a minute please,” or use a similar polite expression, If the person called is not home, offer to be of help. After finishing a call, hang up the receiver. Also, be sure that it is firmly in place. If one end of it is held up by a book or other object, no one will be able to call you.

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Homes which have party line service share the use of the same telephone line with one or more other families. If your telephone is on a party line, here are some hints on how to use it the best way. Be a good neighbor on your party line. Good neighbors are always ready to let others share the line. A good neighbor hangs up quietly right away when he picks up the telephone and hears someone else on the line talking. A good neighbor also hangs up promptly when someone else on the line needs to make a call.

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