The Rotary Telephone, Or When You Couldn’t Use Your Ass To Call Your Mom

Technology has made life easier in many ways. We can tell our cars to take us anywhere we want to go. We can book a stay in a random stranger’s house with the touch of a button. And we can microwave a slice of pizza in 20 seconds. We can even tell our cars to take us to a stranger’s house to use their microwave.

One device that technology has massively changed is the telephone. Yes, that little handheld computer you’re reading this on used to be called a “telephone.” And it used to be “rotary,” no less. Which meant it had a big plastic revolving dial with numbers on it. 

Dialing the phone was a testament to our willpower and endurance. You had to individually dial each digit in a phone number to make a call. God forbid you had to make a long-distance call. That could take a full minute to accomplish!

History tells us the first telephone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. In March of that year, Bell called his lab assistant, Thomas Watson, into his office using his newfangled invention. The first words Bell spoke over his telephone were “Mr. Watson, come here, I want to see you.” Little did Bell know that 140 years later, that simple message would forever be known as the “U up?” of telecommunications history.

Side note: apparently there’s some controversy over whether Mr. Bell was the true inventor of the telephone. Italy maintains the phone was invented by a Florentine named Antonio Meucci. Seems Mr. Meucci had demonstrated his “teletrofono” in New York in 1860, and Bell had access to Meucci’s materials when he took out his own patent 16 years later. So maybe Bell did crib Meucci’s notes. But Bell also invented a machine that could clean wheat, so suck it, Italy.

While I love my cell and all the conveniences that come with it, I’ll admit I miss the good old-fashioned telephone. I mean, there were some negatives. Dialing took forever. If you messed up mid-dial, you had to hang up and start over. And if you had a friend who had zeroes in their number, you might as well just write them off then and there. Nobody has that kind of time. 

But there were also a ton of positives. Having a rotary phone added excitement to your life. If you heard it ring in one room while you were in another, your body was instantly flooded with adrenaline as you ran towards the phone, screaming “I GOT IT! I GOT IT!”

Accidental butt dials were unheard of. There’s no way your ass can dial a rotary phone. And if it can, why are you wasting time reading this Gleek? Get those talented rotary-dialing butt cheeks a youtube channel and make some cash!

And while a rotary phone made drunk-dialing more difficult, it didn’t eliminate it entirely. It just took a lot longer. Which meant you might be sober enough mid-dial to realize you were about to make a horrible mistake calling Becky to beg her to take you back. Pro-tip #1: Don’t do it, Becky. Pro-tip #2: Hang up the phone, Brad.

Perhaps the best thing about rotary phones was how dramatic they were during a fight. It’s impossible to angrily hang up a cell phone. Try it, you’ll feel like an idiot. But slamming a rotary phone down in its cradle was a truly satisfying experience. I feel for younger generations who can only emphatically end a phone call by angrily smooshing their finger against their phone screens.

So let’s raise a Gleek to the rotary telephone. It made us slow down and savor life. And it also made it impossible to send unsolicited dick pics. If you wanted to deliver a dick pic, you had to do it the old-fashioned way: by caricature sketch.

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