TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: TV Show - Legacy Phone in Scene

Re: TV Show - Legacy Phone in Scene
19 Oct 2005 13:44:01 -0700

Joseph wrote:

> TV isn't very good about matching phones with their real sounds. How
> many shows have you seen where someone uses a pay phone and when they
> insert the money it goes "ding-ding?" Ding-ding went out with the
> demise of the three slot payphone (around the middle of the 60s.)

I think 3-slots were around well into the 1970s, though single slots
came out in the late 1960s. Single slots were first installed in more
vulnerable locations, such as outdoor payphones or in public places.
Payphones in say office building lobbies or semi-public phones in gas
stations and luncheonettes got converted later.

But you're right -- they kept the coin-drop chimes long after the demise
of that style of phone.

In the city, payphones for prepay, even if dial-tone first. (I don't
remember if 3-slots could have dial-tone first). On TV, it seemed
every pay phone was also pre-pay.

However, in rural locations, payphones were postpay. That is, you got
a dial tone and dialed the number. If the line was busy or no answer
you just hung up. But if answered you had to put in the dime to let
your transmitter work. On such phones there was no "hold area" for
coins and associated relay control, coins went directly into the box.
That meant the phone had a much simpler construction as did the CO
equipment, making it cheaper. People have previously stated there
were ways to beat the system with that kind of payphone, but I presume
the phoneco figured the cost savings were worth the risk, and maybe
rural people were more honest and less scheming than city people.

> I'm guessing that most people casually wouldn't have a clue that the
> ringing of a phone's sound was wrong.

Most people wouldn't know, just as non-computer people wouldn't notice
the obvious fakery with most computer schemes shown on TV or movies.

In the film "Airplane!", the satire of disaster movies, they purposely
used the buzz of a propeller plane as the background sound for the
jet, among other sight and sound gags. BTW, the film was not
original, it was actually a remake of a 1950s Canadian film. The
original film was intended to be totally serious and they used almost
all of its dialogue and plot. They just hammed it up and added some
gag lines here and there. The original movie was already so
overwrought it became funny pretty easily. (The original was shown on
TCM who provided this explanation, the original never made it to

I saw an old TV show with Leslie Nielsen playing a cop. He did all
the same earnest commanding lines as in "Police Squad" and "Airplane",
only this time he was serious. But I couldn't take him seriously, I
was laughing. Some actors become typecast in that mode that they have
trouble doing other work. For instance, Don Adams (Maxwell Smart, a
great phone user) always was seen as that character. On the Mary
Tyler Moore show, the actor who played cartoonish newsman Ted Baxter
likewise had trouble being taken seriously in other roles -- people
thought he was still Ted Baxter.

Other actors make the switch ok. Jennie Garth was one of the 90210
spoiled rich kids and not a very likeable one. She's now doing a WB
sitcom playing a very different character. (The new show uses an old
fashioned cash register, FWIW).

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