What's The Deal With Dial Tones In Old Movies?

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You've likely heard this telephone sound while watching older movies... someone gets rudely hung up on, we see a shocked face, then hear an abrupt dial tone. In the following video, Tom Scott visits Seattle's Museum of Communications to answer the question: Why is there a dial tone when, theoretically, there should just be dead air? There's more to the answer than "sound effects." Keep watching to learn more about telephone technology and old films.

Here's The Deal With Dial Tones

It involves dead air, sound effects, and private telephone companies.

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This Is Why People In Old Movies Talk Weird

Hear why Americans acquired the "Trans-Atlantic" accent heard in old films:

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Key Facts In This Video

  1. The "old-timey" voice heard in American movies from the 30s and 40s is called the transatlantic or mid-atlantic accent. 00:17

  2. The transatlantic accent has a lack of roticity, meaning that speakers drop r's from the ends of words. 01:01

  3. The transatlantic accent fell out of favor after WWII, as fewer teachers taught the pronunciation to their students. 02:04

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