Profile America: Touch-Tone Phones

Profile America — Tuesday, November 29.

We still use the word “dial” to refer to the act of calling someone on the phone. This is a legacy, as a great many of us have never used a rotary phone or seen one, except in old movies and TV shows. Push-button, or touch-tone, phones made their debut this month in 1963. At the time, the service was an extra cost option and was available only in two cities in Pennsylvania. It did not take long, however, for the speed of placing calls on the new phones to make them popular. In 1963, 81 percent of U.S. homes had telephones. That percentage grew to become almost universal, but the landline percentage has been dropping since 1998, as cell phones more and more become the phone of choice. Now, 89 percent of American households have cell phones.

Profile America is in its 20th year as a public service of the U.S. Census Bureau.

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