Why Your Cell Phone Doesn't Have a Dial ToneS

In addition to the long curly cords, and the part where they are permanently attached to a wall, old-fashioned landlines have something else that we've lost in the cell phone revolution: a dial tone. What happened to that thing?

Dan Goldin of Makers Alley just happened to be reading The Idea Factory when he came upon a passage that addresses just that and was nice enough to share it with us all.

From the book:

Meanwhile, Phil Porter, who had worked with [Richard] Frenkiel on the original system, came up with a permanent answer to an interesting question. Should a cellular phone have a dial tone? Porter made a radical suggestion that it shouldn't. A caller should dial a number and then push "send." That way, the mobile caller would be less rushed; also, the call would be connected for a shorter time, thus putting less strain on the network. That this idea-dial, then send-would later prove crucial to texting technology was not even considered.

Typing everything in and hitting enter may seem like second nature to us tech savvy folks, but it's weird to think that the change was actually an explicit choice, even a jarring on to older folks; phones like the Jitterbug still go out of their way to emulate a dial tone for old time's sake.

Today's phones don't need a tone since they can parse and send numbers all at once instead of one at a time, so it would have been silly to keep it around. But still, it's a little bit sad to think that it's gone for good. [Dan Goldin]