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New touch phone: Sound of music

The telephone of tomorrow — featuring pushbuttons, missile-like speed and musical tones — comes to Stroudsburg and Delaware Water Gap Monday.

Touch-Tone service, with electronic “touch and talk” phones, will be introduced in the two communities by the Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania. K B Chura, Bell’s local manager, said only about 30 of the company’s nearly 60 central offices in Pennsylvania now have the optional, extra-charge service.

Rates set

Chura said rates for residential customers are: the main phone and all existing extensions — no matter how many — will be replaced with Touch – Tone instruments in the customers choice of color for $1.50 per month… plus a one-time $5 installation charge.

Touch-Tone made its debut in Pennsylvania at Greensburg on February 1, 1961, as part of a market test.

Chura said it is not possible for Bell to introduce the new service simultaneously throughout the state because extensive, costly central office changes are required. In view of this, Touch-Tone is being inaugurated on a gradual basis.

With Touch-Tone, telephone instruments have 10 pushbuttons instead of the familiar fingerwheel (rotary) dial. To call a number, a user need only tap it out — not use the thrust of pushing. Buttons are arranged in three rows of threes, with an operator (0) button centered under the bottom row.

Telephone history

Stroudsburg, whose telephone history dates back to 1891, will join a select list of American cities to have what can be termed space-age telephony. In 1891, Edwin Peters, of the Peters House in Bushkill, established the first telephone service. A 13-mile long line connected the Peters House to the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Depot in East Stroudsburg.

The Stroudsburg and Bushkill Telephone Company was established in 1892. It was purchased by the Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania in 1926.

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Tapping out a number on the musical Touch-Tone buttons is so fast that an entire number can be dialed in as little as two seconds. With a rotary dial, it takes about 10 seconds to dial a seven-digit number.

Chura explained that each tone sounded by a Touch-Tone telephone is an electronic signal that tells the central office switching equipment, in a fraction of a second, the number that has been reached. “As each button is pressed, a pleasant, soft electronically-produced sound can be heard,” the Bell manager added.

“It’s not there to entertain the caller, although sometimes it does, but it tells the central office switching equipment that a specific number has been pressed. Actually, what is heard is not one tone, but a blend of two,” he added. “One tone represents the button’s position in the vertical row, and the other its position in the horizontal row.”

Touch-Tone signals must be uniform and perfectly pitched in every instrument. Each Touch-Tone unit has 140 parts, many of which are complex electronic devices. The conventional rotary dial type phone has 87 components.

Dual signals of Touch-Tone blend into musical tones that are virtually impossible to duplicate with the human voice. They were selected by the engineers at Bell Telephone Laboratories so that switching equipment could not confuse speech sounds with dial signals. Otherwise, a customer who spoke, or even cleared his throat while he dialed, might trigger a wrong number.

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The future of telephones

Chura pointed out that Touch-Tone is more than a “new look” in telephones or just another service improvement. He added that it represents a totally new signaling system and opens the way to vastly increased versatility in communications.

The day may come when, with Touch-Tone service, the housewife will push buttons on her phone to place an order at the store, and when a salesman will send a code and dictate a letter into a machine in his office.

Actually, pushbutton calling dates back to 1892. In 1948, a small-scale test was made at Media, Pa. Participants were 35 employes of the Bell Telephone Company of Pennsylvania. In preparation for the new service, dial tone of telephone customers served by the 421, 424 and 476 central offices was changed last December 14. The new tone is somewhat lower in pitch than the old sound.

Chura emphasized that the introduction of Touch-Tone is not Bell’s sole service improvement scheduled for the Stroudsburg sub-district in 1965. The telephone company, he added, has planned an outlay of more than $580,000 for construction projects in the area during the coming year.

With the new service, telephone customers can enjoy flick-of-the-finger dialing, the most modern, almost effortless way to make calls, he said.


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