The only time I ever hear a dial tone these days is when I’m at work. It’s a normal sound to me because I grew up with a home phone. But there is a generation of kids that is growing up with little exposure to the dial tone because the only phones in the house are mobile. The dial tone doesn’t exist to them. We rarely think about it, but the mobile phone doesn’t have a dial tone. Why?

Dan Goldin seems to have discovered why. It was a conscious decision when cell phone networks were first established. When you pick up a landline and hear the tone you are now on the network. Cell phones have a more constrained network. So by having people dial and then press send the network is only in use when connecting a call. This reduces traffic. Imagine how many minutes you would eat up if your phone was always playing a dial tone. This decision also helped to bring about other technologies such as the text message.

Not that I’d given the dial tone thing much thought, but I always thought of it as a design decision. Every mobile phone has the number pad on the device. Therefore you’re looking at the phone when dialing, and don’t have the phone to your head. Most landline phones have a handset attached to a base station. So you hold the handset to your head while dialing on the base station.

Regardless of the reason, enjoy the dial tone while you can. No telling how much longer she’ll be with us.

Image: roberthuffstutter

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categories: technology, weakend