The serious busy signal.
April 2, 2005 6:38 AM   Subscribe

Why is it that when someone has been on the phone a long time or it's off hook, the busy signal that callers get has no "click" preceding it? I've noticed this since the 80s and am surprised it still happens with all the changes/upgrades at the telco.
posted by rolypolyman to Technology (11 answers total)
 
Are you referring to the busy signal, or the faster and much more annoying "off hook" signal?
posted by pmbuko at 7:38 AM on April 2, 2005


This may very well be specific to your locality or region. The telephone system in my corner of the country stopped emitting clicking sounds during switching and caller messaging some time in 1989 when the very very last crossbar exchange in town (mine) finally went away. It does not, today, behave as you describe, and hasn't for over 15 years.
posted by majick at 7:57 AM on April 2, 2005


no idea what you're talking about.
posted by delmoi at 10:38 AM on April 2, 2005


If I may hijack, I want to know what the telephony sound is that I hear on the radio sometimes. It's a sound that I don't recognize, and often used as a sound bridge between a story about the phone and a voice-over bit on, say, NPR. I've heard it enough that I figure it's a bit of a cliche. It's the same tone, repeated over and over, kind of grainy sounding, cycling maybe once a second. There might be two tones, actually. It's obviously a tone that was used on telephones many years ago, perhaps as recently as a few decades, perhaps a half a century ago.

Does any of this ring a bell (ha ha) for anyone?
posted by waldo at 11:56 AM on April 2, 2005


i think it's called a reorder signal.
posted by luriete at 1:00 PM on April 2, 2005


The reorder signal (or, as I've long thought of it, "fast busy") isn't it, but I really enjoyed reading about it. The signal that I'm thinking of is quite laid-back, by comparison. I wouldn't be at all surprised to find it used in ambient music.
posted by waldo at 5:38 PM on April 2, 2005


rolypolyman and waldo: get out that cheap computer microphone and record these mysterious sounds for us.
posted by punishinglemur at 10:49 PM on April 2, 2005


I can't, lemur -- this sound no longer exists on phones. It hasn't in my lifetime. I only hear it on radio shows when there's talk of telephones or, more often, telephone calls of the past.

Perhaps I can track something down on This American Life...
posted by waldo at 9:09 AM on April 3, 2005


I want to know what the telephony sound is that I hear on the radio sometimes. It's a sound that I don't recognize, and often used as a sound bridge between a story about the phone and a voice-over bit on, say, NPR. I've heard it enough that I figure it's a bit of a cliche. It's the same tone, repeated over and over, kind of grainy sounding, cycling maybe once a second.

Might be a non-US busy tone.
posted by kindall at 2:14 PM on April 3, 2005


I want to know what the telephony sound is that
I hear on the radio sometimes. It's...often used
as a sound bridge between a story about the phone and a voice-over bit on, say, NPR.


I think you're talking about a sample from a song by Penguin Cafe Orchestra called "Telephone and Rubber Band."
posted by Rash at 9:29 PM on April 3, 2005


The major reason for the change you're referring to (not hearing the click) is the conversion in the Telco networks to fully digital switching systems as opposed to analog (crossbar was mentioned earlier - that's a kind of analog central office switch) system. There are some crossbar switches out there, and even some old stepper switches in some *really* rural areas.
posted by TeamBilly at 10:08 PM on April 3, 2005


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