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John E. Karlin, Who Led the Way To All-Digit Dialing, Dies At 94

timothy posted about a year and a half ago | from the hollywood-zero-one-two-three-nine dept.

Communications 120

First time accepted submitter g01d4 writes "Who was John E. Karlin? 'He was the one who introduced the notion that behavioral sciences could answer some questions about telephone design,' according to Ed Israelski, an engineer who worked under Mr. Karlin at Bell Labs in the 1970s. And you thought Steve Jobs was cool. An interesting obituary in the NYT."

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120 comments

upside down keypads? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42848019)

I want to know if they are his fault. It's annoying to have phones different from everything else that has a keypad.

Re:upside down keypads? (4, Informative)

stevedog (1867864) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848093)

Apparently he did. From TFA... "The rectangular design of the keypad, the shape of its buttons and the position of the numbers — with “1-2-3” on the top row instead of the bottom, as on a calculator — all sprang from empirical research conducted or overseen by Mr. Karlin."

Re:upside down keypads? (2)

hpa (7948) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848111)

The fail was that the analysis was done in a time when calculating machines were a speciality item few people were familiar with. 15 years later, they were not. It is worth nothing that some countries went with the AT&T scheme and others stayed with the 7-8-9 layout on their phones. Unfortunately the proliferation of letters on keypads (a lot of countries did not have them) in recent years have made 1-2-3 more prevalent.

Re:upside down keypads? (0)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848159)

The fail was that the analysis was done in a time when calculating machines were a speciality item few people were familiar with.

I would think that a sizable part of the population had operated a cash register or elevator, even in 1960.

Re:upside down keypads? (5, Informative)

NixieBunny (859050) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848261)

Elevators and cash registers did not have 7-8-9 keypads in 1960. Cash registers had 10 keys per digit, and elevators have always had one button per floor.

The only type of machine that had a 7-8-9 keypad was the ten-key machine, used by bookkeepers and accountants to total receipts.

Re:upside down keypads? (1)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#42853395)

No, but they had the higher numbers higher up, which is the significant difference between phone pads and other pads.

Re:upside down keypads? (2)

Rockoon (1252108) | about a year and a half ago | (#42849411)

Yes. they operated one of these early cash registers. [google.com]

Note the distinct lack of a 3x3 grid of numbers 1 through 9, because these cash registers were mechanical not digital.

Re:upside down keypads? (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | about a year and a half ago | (#42851759)

Unfortunately the proliferation of letters on keypads (a lot of countries did not have them) in recent years have made 1-2-3 more prevalent.

Fortunately, the proliferation of touch screen smartphones puts you into the position to choose what you want.

Re:upside down keypads? (5, Insightful)

Dan East (318230) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848101)

Supposedly it is calculator keyboards that are upside down. Two reasons touch tone phones use the order they do:

Touch tone phones replaced rotary phones, which already had 123 at the top of the dial, and 789 at the bottom. So it made sense to keep the same order that millions of people were already used to, in order to make the transition easier.

Touch tone phones have the alphabet sharing the keys, starting with ABC on key 2. Thus the letters are alphabetic from top to bottom, which also properly follows reading order.

Apparently no real research was done in the choice of calculator keyboards having the numbers descending from 9 down. It just happened, and since calculator keyboard layout was more arbitrary (it had neither a predecessor like touch tone phones, nor the alphabet sharing the keys), it would have made sense for calculator designers to match the touch tone phone layout.

I don't know if any studies have been done, but I don't see any reason why one layout would be more intuitive than the other for pure numerical use to a human than the other. It's whatever you get used to. If calculators matched telephones from the beginning then today no one would feel something was inherently wrong with their calculator or that it is upside down from what it should have always been.

Re:upside down keypads? (4, Interesting)

stevedog (1867864) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848125)

Although it wasn't based on research, it actually is fairly intuitive. Given that calculators were probably most commonly used in finance initially, I would guess that the most common number used (possibly even now) would be 0. Placing that most common number at the thumb position has clear utility, similar to that of the spacebar. My guess is that that served as the anchor, with the other numbers logically flowing from there.

Obviously, all of this is coming out of my ass, but like I said, I don't think it's entirely illogical (though I also think that, for its own purpose, the phone's layout is equally logical, and emulating the calculator on a dialpad would have made the phone look ridiculous when it was released).

Re:upside down keypads? (4, Interesting)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848197)

The system with higher numbers on top goes back to the Roman and Chinese abacus, so it's not arbitrary at all.

Also, push button elevators naturally had the higher floors higher up, so there was precedence for this system with push buttons.

Re:upside down keypads? (3, Insightful)

Kotoku (1531373) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848539)

The fact that other cultures have done something may set a precedent but it does not make it any less arbitrary. To make something less arbitrary it has to have meaningful justification.

Re:upside down keypads? (4, Funny)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848635)

Are you telling me that the Romans and the Chinese are responsible for big-endian ordering?

Re:upside down keypads? (2)

kelemvor4 (1980226) | about a year and a half ago | (#42850335)

Are you telling me that the Romans and the Chinese are responsible for big-endian ordering?

Since they invented the computer, yes.

Cause of Romans? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42849427)

The system with higher numbers on top goes back to the Roman and Chinese abacus, so it's not arbitrary at all.

Gee, I can smell it already. Are you suggesting it's again all the way back to width of the Horse Arse !

Re:upside down keypads? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42848207)

Calculators did have a predecessor - mechanical adding machines and cash registers.
In both cases, they had more than a '0' at the bottom, they often had the decimal point and a '00' and '000' button to allow faster keying of dollar amounts both for whole dollars and thousands of dollars.

Re:upside down keypads? (5, Informative)

tlhIngan (30335) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848559)

Supposedly it is calculator keyboards that are upside down. Two reasons touch tone phones use the order they do:

Touch tone phones replaced rotary phones, which already had 123 at the top of the dial, and 789 at the bottom. So it made sense to keep the same order that millions of people were already used to, in order to make the transition easier.

Touch tone phones have the alphabet sharing the keys, starting with ABC on key 2. Thus the letters are alphabetic from top to bottom, which also properly follows reading order.

Apparently no real research was done in the choice of calculator keyboards having the numbers descending from 9 down. It just happened, and since calculator keyboard layout was more arbitrary (it had neither a predecessor like touch tone phones, nor the alphabet sharing the keys), it would have made sense for calculator designers to match the touch tone phone layout.

I don't know if any studies have been done, but I don't see any reason why one layout would be more intuitive than the other for pure numerical use to a human than the other. It's whatever you get used to. If calculators matched telephones from the beginning then today no one would feel something was inherently wrong with their calculator or that it is upside down from what it should have always been.

Sorta, kinda accurate.

The main reason actually relates to the position of the zero. On a rotary phone, the numbers go 7-8-9-0 (phone phreaks should know that dialing 0 generates 10 pulses - just like 1-9 generate 1-9 pulses, respectively).

On an adding machine and other such hardware, the zero is actually beside the 1-2-3. As at the time the numbers were in a vertical column, you'd see them as 0-1-2-3 ... -8-9.

So when they went to the key pad, the phone engineers decided that since the 0 was besides the 9 on every phone they made, it should stay close to the 9 on the final phone layout. Hence 1-2-3 on top, 7-8-9 on the bottom, and *-0-# on the bottom. (Or on old keypads, 0 aligned with either the 8 or 9).

LIkewise, calculator engineers saw that people who used adding machines expect the 0 to be near the 1-2-3, so they designed their keypads with that in mind as adding machine users expected 0 to be near 1.

And look at your keyboard to this day - the number row reflects the telephone layout (1-2-3 ... -7-8-9-0) while the numeric keypad reflects the calculator layout. Presumably, this was because the typewriter guys saw that the telephone kept the 0 near the 9 so they kept their 0 near the 9 as well (being that more people would've seen a phone at the time than a calculator. I'm certain back in the late 19th century when keyboards weren't standardized on QWERTY and the phone was for rich folks, they probably had 0-1-2-3 just as often as 1-2-3..-9-0.

Re:upside down keypads? (2)

Pieroxy (222434) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848821)

You have an unbalanced parenthesis. You will be terminated shortly. Resistance is futile.

Re:upside down keypads? (2)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848953)

Touch tone phones have the alphabet sharing the keys, starting with ABC on key 2. Thus the letters are alphabetic from top to bottom, which also properly follows reading order.

Touch tone phones were only following the pattern already long established by rotary phones - those had the same letters associated with the same digits.

As a matter of fact, when I was a kid our phone numbers were usually stated with the first two digits being replaced by letters - so you might've said "my number is LE5-4192" for instance. That first bit indicated which exchange you were on, and was probably a hold-over from when operators had to manually make the connections.

Re:upside down keypads? (2)

quetwo (1203948) | about a year and a half ago | (#42849771)

Having just two letters that represented the digits was just a transition from manual operators to a step-switch. Back when, people knew the name of their central office... for example, mine was Carriage Acres, plus a 5 digit number (95985). Shortly before we got that number, many only had three digit numbers -- Carriage Acres plus a 3 digit. When they started moving towards automated switching, they replaced our phones with the notifier (arm that you cranked) with phones that had the rotary dial and the letters on the numbers (first time we'd seen that). We still had to contact the operator to go outside our area for a while (or when we needed help finding somebody's number), but eventually they came up with area codes. People then forgot their exchange names, and started with just the two letters. Then the letters went away and we started with the long string of 7 digits (plus the area code). Then they took my nice rotary dial phone away and put in a crappy 2500. A year later, they replaced our 2500 with one that had the * and # on it. Then they broke up.

Re:upside down keypads? (1)

trb (8509) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848109)

Yes, the upside down keypads are his "fault." The obit has the info wrong. Adding machine keypads always had the lower numbers at the bottom, and so do computer keypads. You can google for about this, but I think he figured that American phone users (who mostly weren't adding machine users) were used to reading from left to right and top to bottom, hence the order.

Re:upside down keypads? (1)

stevedog (1867864) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848155)

It says "Putting “1-2-3” on the pad’s top row instead of the bottom (the configuration used, then as now, on adding machines and calculators) was also born of Mr. Karlin’s group: they found it made for more accurate dialing." I think when they said "the configuration used" they were referring to "the bottom" rather than the entire preceding phrase. Admittedly though, whatever they meant, it wasn't very clear.

Re:upside down keypads? (5, Informative)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848145)

No, the 1-2-3 on the top appears to be due to an R. L. Deininger [vcalc.net] , and probably some Bell execs who figured (npi) that it would look better with ABC at the top instead of PRS.

What Mr. Deininger didn't realize was that the industries that already used keypads with higher numbers at the top weren't likely to change.

Calculators started out with 900, 90 and 9 at the top, and going down to 0 at the bottom. Later digital calculators continued with the high numbers at the top, because that's what calculators (the human ones) were used to. So 7-8-9 went at the top.

Similar for cash registers, which really were just narrow purpose calculators, but here there was also a mechanical reason. Registers popped up plaques with the numbers for the customer to see. The designs varied, but generally these were slotted in order from 0-9, with the 0 and 1 closest to the customer, to prevent fraud where the customer would see (and pay) a higher sum that what was entered. Having the low numbers at the bottom meant fewer mechanical crossings.

Then there's the elevator industry. Buildings in general go upwards, not downwards, and placing the top floors, i.e. high numbers at the top was natural.

So there were at least three examples of higher numbers at the top which Bell ignored.

What bothers me is that ATMs also appear to have 1-2-3 at the top. I cannot get this to make any kind of sense, as they're used to enter sums, not mnemonics.
Did AT&T perhaps "help" design early ATMs?

Re:upside down keypads? (4, Interesting)

Dan East (318230) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848201)

Never really noticed before, but you're right about ATM machines. The millions of POS terminals out there also match telephone keypads with 123 at the top. Guess it makes a little sense. You would enter your PIN into your phone when checking balance via a call to automated support, but you wouldn't ever type your PIN into a calculator. So at least you will always be entering your PIN on the same style keyboard (not counting computer keyboard numeric pads, but I really don't think the average person enters enough numbers to even bother using the numeric keypad on a computer - it would be interesting to see a study showing if the typical person even uses it at all).

Re:upside down keypads? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42848541)

Never really noticed before, but you're right about ATM machines

What's an ATM machine? Is it a place where you use your PIN number?

Re:upside down keypads? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42849403)

Wow that is so funny I can not believe nobody has made that observation before!

Re:upside down keypads? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42850941)

I don't understand. Your use of PIN number appears to imply that ATM machine is redundant. But ATM == Autonomous Transitioning of Money. So calling something an ATM machine makes perfect sense, as it is referring to a machine used in the Autonomous Transitioning of Money from the bank to you (ie, no bank teller).

Re:upside down keypads? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42851295)

But ATM == Autonomous Transitioning of Money

Nope, "Automated Teller Machine"

Re:upside down keypads? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42852465)

whoosh...

Re:upside down keypads? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42848733)

ATM Machines use both orderings. Some place 123 on top and some place it upside down. Which means that you have to actually look at the keypad when you go to key in your PIN number.

Re:upside down keypads? (1)

vrt3 (62368) | about a year and a half ago | (#42849027)

..., but I really don't think the average person enters enough numbers to even bother using the numeric keypad on a computer - it would be interesting to see a study showing if the typical person even uses it at all).

People do in countries that use AZERTY, because on AZERTY keyboards you have to use shift or caps lock to access the digits in the top row. Much easier to use the numeric keypad.

Re:upside down keypads? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42849121)

Not in Shanghai - the ATM keypad at the airport terminal has 789 at the top, like a computer keyboard. Couldn't understand at first why it kept saying "wrong PIN number". Got it on the third attempt (luckily!)

Re:upside down keypads? (3, Interesting)

BlackThorne_DK (688564) | about a year and a half ago | (#42849225)

In Denmark they actually reversed it a few years back, with all the horrors of people not remembering or mistyped their PIN number.
Before it was in the Calculator style, with 789 at the top, now all terminals are with 123 at the top, phone style...

Re:upside down keypads? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42849605)

Meanwhile here in Japan they randomize the keys on the touch screen for security

Re:upside down keypads? (1)

David_W (35680) | about a year and a half ago | (#42850811)

Interesting... how do blind people use the ATMs there?

Re:upside down keypads? (1)

vlpronj (1345627) | about a year and a half ago | (#42851537)

I would guess by Braille, as seen or felt on Drive Up ATM consoles, at least in my area.

Re:upside down keypads? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42852217)

Good god for the moron that put Braille on drive up atm consoles.

Re:upside down keypads? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42852777)

As of last year, all ATMs in the US are required to have it. Some people have made some money by going to the drive through ATMs and looking for missing Braille markings. If the markings are missing, then the people file an ADA lawsuit against the financial institution, which is usually settled.

Re:upside down keypads? (1)

arth1 (260657) | about a year and a half ago | (#42853441)

I've driven my (then) girlfriend to the ATM, and her being blind, she would sit behind me and operate the ATM through the window. Thanks to the moron who put Braille and a voice option on it.

Re:upside down keypads? (3, Informative)

rkww (675767) | about a year and a half ago | (#42849591)

According to your reference, they measured the time taken to dial using the 7-8-9 and the 1-2-3 keypads, and the 1-2-3 was slightly faster: "arrangement I-A had an average keying time of 5.08 seconds, and arrangement IV-A had an average of 4.92 seconds." which is pretty much the point of the article: they measured this stuff.

Re:upside down keypads? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42849711)

Did AT&T perhaps "help" design early ATMs?

Yes - most ATMs are made by NCR which, like IBM, have had a long relationsship with AT&T - even an aqusition and spin-off

Re: upside down keypads? (1)

Sandman619 (791920) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848527)

Unlike a calculator which could begin at the top or bottom of the 10-key, the telephone has to have 1 at the top left, because we read left to right & top to bottom. Add in the alphabet which likewise needs to begin with A at the top left. Logically, when we associate numbers to letters, A is first, ie 1, and the rest of the alphabet follows in numerical order. So there is no logical way for the telephone keypad to be arranged Cheers !

Re: upside down keypads? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42848739)

Not really, the solution to that is that we just assign the letters to different keys. Realize that the reason why phone numbers spell out interesting things is in most case the result of choosing the number the resolves to the words you want, not the other way around.

Re: upside down keypads? (1)

cpt kangarooski (3773) | about a year and a half ago | (#42850711)

The letters were already associated with those numbers, and were part of how the dialing system worked (since US phone numbers used to consist of both letters and numbers). Your suggestion would've caused untold chaos.

Re:upside down keypads? (1)

egcagrac0 (1410377) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848897)

Last line of the article, apt on many levels:

“How does it feel,” his inquisitor asked, “to be the most hated man in America?”

In fairness to Mr. Karlin, he figured out what "ordinary people" could handle, and the target of "ordinary person" has moved.

Insight (1)

foobsr (693224) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848025)

TFS: behavioral sciences could answer some questions about telephone design

Kudos

CC.

Done right (1)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about a year and a half ago | (#42849959)

Western Electric took their time and engineered a marvel of function. Too bad nobody bothered to save the tooling for those things.

A lot more engineering effort nowadays is rightly focused on the extremely profitable control of product life cycles.

I wonder what sort of volume Unicomp [pckeyboard.com] is doing lately?

Re:Done right (1)

foobsr (693224) | about a year and a half ago | (#42852755)

Unicomp seems to be well off, Wikipedia: "Recently, Unicomp has begun expanding their product line. Due to customer demand showing that this was no longer a special request, Unicomp now sells beige, black, and colored key caps, with printing and without. In addition, Unicomp sells replacement parts for older IBM/Lexmark keyboards, and will repair just about any keyboard manufactured by themselves, IBM, or Lexmark." (emphasis mine)

No wonder if you are based on the Model M (I own two, both from the beginning of the 90ies).

CC.

The Truth About Auschwitz and The FDA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42848041)

While excavating anthropological sites in Auschwitz, rusty canteens from the Great Recession were found five feet below the surface. The logos on those canteens? "the FDA." Everything we've been told about the past is a lie.

In the year that it happened, the Anthrax scare didn't receive nearly as much media attention as it should have. the FDA's censors were probably behind this.

Outspoken academics who research this topic have had their research silenced by those in power.

Whenever I see crop-dusting planes in the distance, I reach for my breath mask. There's way too much evidence that it's not a farmer behind the controls of that plane, but an agent of the FDA-- and that he's not dropping pesticides, but compounds genetically engineered to cause mad cow disease.

In 2009, a prominent Harvard professor was forced to resign after talking about fluorine's role in cases of mad cow disease.

You can find subtle references to this in a number of official documents, but government red-tape makes sure that most of those documents are all but inaccessible to ordinary people.

The only way for upstanding citizens to protect themselves from this madness is to retreat from modern society entirely.

Re:The Truth About Auschwitz and The FDA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42848221)

I feel dumber for having read this. Seek professional help for your paranoia.

Re:The Truth About Auschwitz and The FDA (0)

nukenerd (172703) | about a year and a half ago | (#42849131)

The only way for upstanding citizens to protect themselves from this madness is to retreat from modern society entirely.

You could start by cutting your Internet connection.

Re:The Truth About Auschwitz and The FDA (0)

hoboroadie (1726896) | about a year and a half ago | (#42850037)

Somebody spends too much time studying at the feet of Master Jeff Rense. [rense.com]

Re:The Truth About Auschwitz and The FDA (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42850139)

Wow, if they have been trying to actively spread mad cow disease, I guess we have nothing to worry about considering how bad of a job they have done as a result of such systematic efforts...

Steve Jobs???? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42848057)

And you thought Steve Jobs was cool.

Seriously? How does this have ANYTHING to do with Apple or Jobs? Why does every other story on here have to include some sort of strange mental gymnastics to make a reference to a dead CEO? Get Steve's decomposing cock out of your mouth and stop trying to tie everything to him or his fucking company!

Re:Steve Jobs???? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42848087)

Well, Steve Jobs invented the phone after all.

Re:Steve Jobs???? (1)

nukenerd (172703) | about a year and a half ago | (#42849137)

Well, Steve Jobs invented the phone after all.

I know it's funny, but someone modded it as "Informative"! (as at 1014 hrs GMT) Is there a way here of modding a mod as "funny"?

Re:Steve Jobs???? (1, Funny)

martin-boundary (547041) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848095)

Well, Steve Jobs didn't want a keypad on his iPhone, so I guess he didn't think it was cool enough for a phone, directly contradicting John Karlin's life work in the psychology of telephone design. But we know Karlin was cool too, so now there's the obvious question, who was cooler? Because I need to know if keypads on a phone is hot or not.

Re:Steve Jobs???? (3, Funny)

Dracos (107777) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848187)

When I got my second cell phone in 2007, I also switched from T-Mobile to Sprint. I narrowed down my choices to the Motorola RAZR or ic502, both clamshell models. The deciding factor: the RAZR didn't have a raised dot on the 5 key, so I got the ic502.

I hated that phone every minute of the next three and a half years.

Re:Steve Jobs???? (2)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#42849345)

If it makes you feel any better, you probably would have hated the RAZR, too. All but the very last GSM model had shit reception and its wasn't that hot either. They were awkward to hold because of their thin-ness and the battery life was crap, maybe half of triplets.

Re:Steve Jobs???? (1)

nukenerd (172703) | about a year and a half ago | (#42849177)

But we know Karlin was cool

Karlin was cool? Sounds like a jerk to me.

1) Got numeric keys the wrong way up

2) Shortens co-workers phone leads in the middle of the night until they complained loud enough for him to hear. They might have been irritated long before that point, and how would they necessarily know to complain to him. Could he not have confined the experiment to his own phone? Co-incidentally, yesterday I rigged a cord for an overhead bathroom switch. It only took a minute to fix an optimum length by trying it, and getting my wife to try it too.

3) Replaces a rotary dial with push buttons - a no-brainer as all electro-mechanical devices were being replaced with electronics at that time.

4) Believed that people can remember a 7-digit number - they can't, unless it is one they use regularly

Re:Steve Jobs???? (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about a year and a half ago | (#42849451)

1) Got numeric keys the wrong way up

I don't know how you count in your country, but we count from 1 to 9 without any jumping back from 9 to 4 or from 6 to one.

Which happens to be the order of keys on a telephone. Repeat after me: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

You probably shouldn't have watched Sesame Street episodes out of order... :-)

Re:Steve Jobs???? (1)

nukenerd (172703) | about a year and a half ago | (#42851945)

....... we count from 1 to 9 without any jumping back from 9 to 4 or from 6 to one. Which happens to be the order of keys on a telephone

.... but not the order of keys on a calculator or a full PC keyboard. Se elsewhere in this discussion for why this is. .

Re:Steve Jobs???? (1)

bickerdyke (670000) | about a year and a half ago | (#42852391)

....... we count from 1 to 9 without any jumping back from 9 to 4 or from 6 to one. Which happens to be the order of keys on a telephone

.... but not the order of keys on a calculator or a full PC keyboard. Se elsewhere in this discussion for why this is. .

Yes, but the key order on a calculator is the wrong one as it is NOT going straight from 1 to 9. Yes, there were reasons why they put them in a different order, but that does not automatically makes that the right order.

Re:Steve Jobs???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42850045)

4) Believed that people can remember a 7-digit number - they can't, unless it is one they use regularly

What other seven-digit numbers would you need to remember? 867-5309?

My dad's cell has been his primary phone for over a decade, and he still doesn't store any numbers on the phone. He dials an ungodly number of, er, numbers from memory.

Re:Steve Jobs???? (1)

nukenerd (172703) | about a year and a half ago | (#42851905)

4) Believed that people can remember a 7-digit number - they can't, unless it is one they use regularly

What other seven-digit numbers would you need to remember?

Any number, like the plumber's, that you have just looked up in a directory or got off the Web needs to be transferred to the phone pad. Perhaps I'm retarded, but I cannot do that without glancing back at the number part way through.

Re:Steve Jobs???? (-1, Flamebait)

tbird81 (946205) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848141)

"And you thought Steve Jobs was cool."

What. The. Fuck. Is this a troll comment? Who the hell submitted this? g01d4? Did you write that comment? If so, you're going to be a first and last time accepted contributor. Or was it Timothy, who is a geek in "weird glasses" only? Does he believe this, or is it just comment bait?

No-one thinks Steve Jobs is cool, except the douchiest of Apple fanatics. He wore sneakers and jeans and black turtleneck. That is not cool.

Re:Steve Jobs???? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42848667)

I see you've been marked "Flamebait" and the parent comment was marked "-1 Troll". Let me just add my voice: lsulfate also thinks Steve Jobs was not cool.

Re:Steve Jobs???? (1, Interesting)

YttriumOxide (837412) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848865)

No-one thinks Steve Jobs is cool, except the douchiest of Apple fanatics. He wore sneakers and jeans and black turtleneck. That is not cool.

Actually, as a non Apple fanatic; I thought he was pretty cool. Went a bit too far in his later years though.

I think far too many people think of him only in his "hip" later years, showing off the latest iGadget to crowds of adoring fans then heading back to Apple and being a "hard taskmaster" to the developers. They then retroactively apply this personality to his earlier years and assume he was always a douche. By all accounts he was a bit of a revolutionary back then; a "fuck the system, I'll do what I want" kind of guy. I admire that in business leaders in the technical world.

He appeared to truly want things to be better for people. He probably didn't achieve that and definitely lost sight of some important aspects of "better" in his later years; but desire is what should be measured for the mettle of a man, not results. So, I still give him the benefit of the doubt - he wanted things to be better, and he tried really hard to achieve that result. That's something that I personally find pretty cool.

(although I'd rather swap my toilet paper for sand paper than be forced to use an iPhone or iPad as my daily mobile computing device - so you can hardly call me an Apple fan)

But you are right that this comment has absolutely NOTHING to do with the topic.

Re:Steve Jobs???? (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about a year and a half ago | (#42849347)

I think far too many people think of him only in his "hip" later years, showing off the latest iGadget to crowds of adoring fans then heading back to Apple and being a "hard taskmaster" to the developers. They then retroactively apply this personality to his earlier years and assume he was always a douche.

But some people have read folklore.org and the Tao of Mac and we know that he was always a douche.

Re:Steve Jobs???? (1)

nukenerd (172703) | about a year and a half ago | (#42849197)

No-one thinks Steve Jobs is cool .... He wore sneakers and jeans and black turtleneck. That is not cool.

Hey, steady on, sneakers and jeans and black turtleneck were cool (in 1963).

Re:Steve Jobs???? (1)

Mikkeles (698461) | about a year and a half ago | (#42850001)

'...sneakers and jeans and black turtleneck were cool (in 1963).'

No, they weren't.

Re:Steve Jobs???? (1)

Artifakt (700173) | about a year and a half ago | (#42850719)

10th doctor - sneakers. Jobs was 33% cool.
You've also just described what I was wearing frequently in 63 (at 9 years old) so thanks, I think.

This obit reminds me of (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42848067)

Woody Allen's piece on the invention of the sandwich ("Yes, But Can the Steam Engine Do This?" in "Getting Even")

As a life long Phone Phreaker . . . (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42848073)

I shall mourn his loss.

Re:As a life long Phone Phreaker . . . (2)

JustOK (667959) | about a year and a half ago | (#42849885)

whistle a mournful tune

Arguably.... (3, Insightful)

stox (131684) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848077)

He was also the Father of the User Interface. He was the first to take human factors into consideration in the design or products.

First "user interface" with any smarts (5, Interesting)

Animats (122034) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848437)

He was also the Father of the User Interface. He was the first to take human factors into consideration in the design or products.

No, that goes back at least to the Gilbreths. Frank Gilbreth created time and motion study for industrial work. His wife, Lillian Gilbreth [wikipedia.org] was more on the product side. She is responsible, among other things, for kitchens with long continuous counter space with cooking surfaces and sinks at the same level.

The first "intelligent user interface" is hard to pinpoint. Railroad interlocking control boards were close. They prevented the operator from doing anything that would cause a collision (that's why they're called interlockings) but didn't help set up routes. The General Railway Signal NX system [nycsubway.org] in 1936 was probably the first automatic intelligent user interface. Routes were set up by pressing a button to indicate where a train was going to enter the controlled area. Lights on a track model board would then light up indicating all the places it could exit. The operator would select one, push one exit button, and all the switches and signals for the route would be set accordingly. The control system took into account all trains present, and all routes already set up, so only safe routes could be set. The operator could even set track or switches out of service and the system would route trains around the area of trouble.

Re:Arguably.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42848835)

Arguably the concept of the user interface is a bit older - at least a few million years old. Think of, for example, the knife. This weird and rare design has integrated business logic and user interface into one device, though the business logic of a knife is better known by the name "blade" and the user interface as "handle".

Obligatory xkcd (1)

Chemisor (97276) | about a year and a half ago | (#42849767)

The 70s called [xkcd.com]

Press 1 or stay on the line (1)

tepples (727027) | about a year and a half ago | (#42852111)

I guess I'm not getting the point of that strip. I've never run into a residential or cellular voice mail system that requires DTMF interaction to leave a message. If anything it's "press 1 or stay on the line". Which modern voice mail system is it satirizing?

So it's his fault (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42848097)

I've worked jobs with nine-button phones and with mechanical / electro-mechanical calculators.

Mostly, you'd take a breath and reset internally to make the swap. And hopefully notice not too many taps past the inevitable reversals. While cursing whoeverinhell didn't follow the established international keypad convention with the new phones.

It's not like calculators were exotic. Sure nobody had them at home, but a hell of a lot of people used them at work. Basic kit of all clerical work everywhere.

I still screw-up by 'reversing' sometimes on the computer keypad. It's a scar.

But cheers John Karlin. I'm sure you did your best with a difficult choice.

No, Steve Jobs was evil, not "cool" (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42848099)

I'm sure all digital dialing had its problems and not everyone thought it was cool either. It probably was more beneficial though than anything Steve "invented".

Cool part: 50+ years later, ur still charged extra (2)

walterbyrd (182728) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848193)

Doesn't the phone company charge an extra fee for digital dialing? As if it's still costing them extra?

Re:Cool part: 50+ years later, ur still charged ex (4, Interesting)

adolf (21054) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848737)

Doesn't the phone company charge an extra fee for digital dialing? As if it's still costing them extra?

When I was a kid, we had a variety of telephones in the house. Some hung on the wall, some had dials, and some had buttons. In the beginning, all of the phones (including those with buttons) used pulse dialing. I remember two distinct conversations between my parents regarding this issue, the first from sometime in the 80s and the second in the early 90s:

1. "Should we pay for Touch-Tone(tm) service?" "It's expensive. We already pay too much for phone service." "It's only a couple of dollars a month, and we can dial faster."

And so it was. We had Touch-Tone(tm), and life was really neither better nor worse, just different. It was a line-item on the bill until

2. "They want to sell us call waiting and three-way calling and distinctive ring services, all bundled up. Can we use those?" "Maybe. Then the kids would have their own phone numbers."

And so it was. With the change of service, the Touch-Tone(tm) item dropped off, though I remember my dad calling to order package and insisting upon it being that way...

And as an adult, I've never been billed for it. And these days, I don't have a land line at all. Come to think of it, it's been years since I've used a real phone that actually used DTMF itself: It's always either a digital office phone, some incarnation of VOIP, or a cell phone.

Re:Cool part: 50+ years later, ur still charged ex (1)

Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) | about a year and a half ago | (#42849437)

My father refused to pay extra for touch tone, and never did. They kept charging extra long after it was all computerized and there was no more specialized hardware listening for clicks on the company side.

Don't know about today, but about 5 years ago my old house only had rotary-enabled service, so we would dial to renew prescriptions and then switch he button to touch tone.

Re:Cool part: 50+ years later, ur still charged ex (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42851179)

My father refused to pay extra for touch tone, and never did. They kept charging extra long after it was all computerized and there was no more specialized hardware listening for clicks on the company side.

Don't know about today

My Dad also refused to pay extra for touch tone, and I also thought it was a ridiculous fee after everything was computerized.

I'm not sure when they stopped charging (early 90's, maybe?), but now it's no longer a line item. And my parents have touch tone service.

Re:Cool part: 50+ years later, ur still charged ex (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42851777)

Here in Canada it was the same situation. $3 extra a month for touch-tone dialing from Bell. My parents refused to pay. At some point maybe in the late 90's new accounts were forced to be touch-tone, but you still had to pay the extra $3. It just was no longer a line item in the bill, tricky bastards.

Older accounts like ours were exempted from the forced switch. And until I ported the number to VoIP last year we were still saving on that $3 every month.

Now they pay $2 a month for a DID number service from voip.ms. Take that Bell Canada.

Between VoIP for your landlines, digital terrestrial channels for TV, Netflix, 3rd party ISPs like Teksavvy and Wind Mobile for cell phones there *is* a path to freedom from the communication oligopolies that run Canada.

Oh, it's better than that. (1)

jeffb (2.718) (1189693) | about a year and a half ago | (#42850481)

Pulse dialing actually cost the phone company more for a long time, as I understand it, because it kept the switching circuitry busy longer than tone dialing. But they'd won the right to charge extra for tone dialing, and the more people shifted to tone dialing (for its obvious benefits), the more money they could get.

My wife and I were also holdouts, keeping our cheap electronic phones set to pulse-dial (hit "speed dial 8", then wait for the clickety-clicking to finish), switching to tone-dial as needed for voicemail. Even if it wasn't worth spending a few extra seconds a day to save a few extra cents a day, it was worth it to us to deny the phone company those ill-gotten cents.

The Mallina dude is the real Shiz (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42848143)

According to TFA a Bell Labs engineer named Mallina patented a touchtone layout years before anyone else had even thought about the problem, only it was two rows of five buttons (1-5 above 6-0), which was eventually rejected by Karlin's group.

I think I'd actually prefer the two row layout in terms of dialing speed, although there would be a question of fit with today's phones.

Professional Violinist? (2)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | about a year and a half ago | (#42848617)

Don't tell me: John Karlin and the Touch-Tones.

Re:Professional Violinist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42849963)

C'mon; this is funny. Somebody mod Jane up!

Re:Professional Violinist? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42852509)

John Karlin and the Multi-Frequency Dual Tones.

FTFY

No need to dial on a party line (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42849553)

When I was a kid, we had, gasp, a party line. You didn't even need to dial
to hear a conversation. Ah, the good ol' days.

"And you thought Steve Jobs was cool." (1)

John Hasler (414242) | about a year and a half ago | (#42849589)

No, I didn't.

Re:"And you thought Steve Jobs was cool." (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42850131)

Ya, that whole bow-tie thing he was doing in the early 80's.. what was up with that?

Correction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42849887)

And you thought Steve Jobs was cool to the touch

FTFY

Jenny's phone number (1)

davidwr (791652) | about a year and a half ago | (#42850271)

If it weren't for him, Jenny's Phone Number might have been "UNion 75309".

Doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

How the Rhinoscerous Got All His Digits (5, Funny)

TheRealHocusLocus (2319802) | about a year and a half ago | (#42850883)

When we were growing up on our little island in the Caribbean we could just pick up the 'phone --- and yes, oh best beloved, in those days an apostrophe would typically precede the word phone --- we'd dial five digits. And the call would just go through.

Not seven, not ten. Never eleven! It is so obvious looking back, the seconds we saved by not dialing those unnecessary digits stretched into minutes, hours, days... by 1980 we were wandering, listless, the burden of those extra hours weighed heavily on us. Many would gaze at their telephones, silently pleading for some sign or answer. But the phones were silent too --- with so much accrued time it was pointless, there was nothing left to say, all had been said.

Then one day a visitor came ashore and asked the number for such-and-such. While dialing the five digits they remarked, "We dial seven. This would not work where I come from."

What an disturbing idea! Ripples of amusement and shock passed through our small society. 'Phones began to ring once again as people mulled this concept. It was unsettling, the idea that should we venture too far from home those familiar numbers we use to communicate would simply not work!

But how far was too far, we wondered? In whispers at first. For now it was possible there was some unknown, invisible boundary surrounding us. For our safety and that of our children it must be mapped. So we asked for volunteers... and sent them out to neighboring islands at all points of the compass, and the US mainland --- and waited by our 'phones.

We sighed with relief when the first reports came in from adjacent islands. Five digits, all clear!

But then our worst fears were confirmed. From Puerto Rico, nothing. From The United States, nothing. We never heard from those brave souls again. Time accrued and the days became longer still.

Then one day a village idiot --- the same who had once suggested we borrow a lug nut from each of the other wheels --- wondered that maybe there are really seven digits... but two of them are somehow invisible. A digits of the land and one of the sky he said, that are unknown to us because we live on and breathe them unaware.

I was intrigued by this idea. What would those digits be? How could one discover them? There are only a hundred possibilities. We all were amused by this but I was perhaps the first one who actually started dialing through them. That is when I discovered that 'phones are patient. Unlike all the people I knew, my 'phone did not seem to mind if I repeatedly dialled numbers that did not work. I had found a new friend!

It is hard to describe what happens after a lifetime of complacent acceptance, as one applies barely an hour of concentrated effort towards some insane idea -- only to reach a moment where you break through and the world changes forever. The call went through and my friend picked up and I heard a familliar 'Hello?' For In those days, oh best beloved, when we answered our 'phone we always said "Hello." We did not bark or grunt, and especially not the impolite "...yes?" or "what the fuck now??" of today.

I shouted breathlessly "I am speaking to you from SEVEN DIGITS! SEVEN! Can you hear me??" Sure, he said, I don't think he knew what I meant and it was past midnight anyway. Being a scientist or explorer of uncharted waters is a heady responsibility. I circled and underlined the two amazing digits and proceeded to complete the sweep. The next combination yielded nothing, and the next. Finally --- the last.

Only one circled pair of digits on my worksheet. I had concieved a simple experiment of technology that was bound to an existential question, performed an exploratory experiment and had obtained a clear and astounding result. We were all saved, we could dial seven digits now like everyone else... and all our time would be spent dialing --- glorious dialing!

I hugged my 'phone.

And in days to come I would discover that dialling a leading '1' forced long distance trunking to occur (Why are these local numbers on our bill?) and pulsing the hookswich on payphones could bypass the coin operated dial, emitting DTMF and MF and 2600 and guard tones introducing a cloak of white noise to distract nearby trunks while 2600 punches through and clears the distant ones and loopback conversations and cable and satellite shunts and Inward and dialling Russia before the rest of the world could dial it and trunking so many hops around the world to ring a phone in the same room that 'hello' took more than three seconds to come back as a degraded echoing 'yawp'. And stuff.

When the nice man from the Phone Company asked me to stop one day I said "Okay. Thanks." It is nice to live on a small island where everyone knows everyone and no one lets anything get out of hand.

I went on to discover BBS networks, Telenet (not Telnet, look it up) and finally... Internet Protocol.

Which is why I believe that at any point it time... the human race is just TWO DIGITS away from discovering something TRULY AWESOME.

Start dialling.

Allen Sherman (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year and a half ago | (#42851587)

When I was in gradeschool this song came out: the Let's All Call Up AT&T and Protest to the President March: [youtube.com]

I was too young at the time to understand what it was about, but it is amusing now.

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