On the way to school this morning, I was telling my mom how I couldn’t get the water temperature in the shower adjusted just right. She said sometimes there’s a fine line between the hot and cold on the handle. I thought it would be better to have a digital shower dial so you knew exactly what temperature you were trying to get. Mom had a counter point to my brilliant idea.
For safety reasons, she said there would have to be an instant shut-off button in case the temperature got too hot for some reason. Digital may be easier to set initially but not as fast to change.
Before so many things went digital, she said it was actually easier with dials because you could change it quicker in one turn or rotation. Think of a digital alarm clock. If it were set to 6:45 a.m. yesterday and now you want to set it to 7:20 a.m., you usually have to set the hour and minutes separately. Changing the hour isn’t so bad. It’s just one number. But when you get to advancing the minutes, you have to scroll through from :45 to :20 and on some clocks, they make you click through every number which is kind of silly. You can’t just hold down the button and speed through all the numbers.
Then Mom remembered about the old rotary phones like she had when she was growing up on the farm. She said that was about the only device that improved once it went to a push button type. It was much faster to punch in 7-10 numbers instead of dialing them one at a time and then waiting for the dial to rotate back into starting position.
As with any digital or push button device now (phones, calculators, etc.), if you push a wrong number, you just hit a clear or back button to erase that digit, then continue on. So I asked Mom how they cleared a number if you realized you dialed the wrong digit on those rotary phones. She started laughing but I didn’t see what was so funny about my question. She said she never thought about “clearing” a number on those old phones.
I said, “well, how did you do it?” She said you just hung up the receiver or clicked the button in the receiver cradle and started over. Because it took much longer to use a rotary dial phone, apparently they were more careful about not making mistakes and dialing the wrong digits.
Things are sure different now and most kids have a really hard time thinking about anything but the way it is today. I’m glad Mom grew up when and where she did because her childhood stories are really interesting and sometimes pretty funny.
In case you don’t know, some stores sell a retro version of that old rotary phone. They are kind of cool.