TIL AT&T only put the * and # buttons on the phone keypad because they had extra space, and they figured maybe someone someday will find some use for them.



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Comments:

8 Dec 2017 04:24 - +9029
When AT&T's decisions made sense.
8 Dec 2017 09:54 - +4017
The best story I ever heard about AT&T was designing the modern touch tone telephone, and they did extensive usability testing. They tried out all kinds of layouts and took input from the public. They found out that the current system we use now, 1-2-3 in a 3x4 grid was the most user friendly and easiest to use layout. Then they called up the calculator companies who had the 7-8-9 layout which they all used, and asked them, "Could we look at your usability tests to determine why you chose that format?" They responded with, "What's a usability test?"
8 Dec 2017 06:11 - +1448
Well, that's not quite the whole story. It's not just that they had "two spare buttons" - because of the way the [DTMF](http://dialabc.com/sound/dtmf.html) dialing tones themselves are composed, there were two "spare" tones to match up to the two extra keys. And in fact, if you read the article I linked above, you'll see there are 16 possible DTMF tones, the four additional tones being A, B, C and D.
8 Dec 2017 06:36 - +785
I remember # was more often used to mean "number" as in "we're #1!" than pound (lb) before that key was used on phones. I guess it would be confusing to call it the number key on a phone.
8 Dec 2017 08:36 - +630
Also, early phone engineers wanted to call the "#" sign an "octothorpe" Sigh... what could have been...
8 Dec 2017 06:42 - +289
i guess you could say it was a good call
8 Dec 2017 09:46 - +167
So what do you call the ’*’ button in the states? In sweden they are usually referred to as ’star’ and the other one as ’square’.
8 Dec 2017 10:04 - +164
Seems weird to me that ATT&T didn't use the "&" symbol somewhere.
8 Dec 2017 10:23 - +93
Speaking of forgotten meanings: AT&T previously AMTEL&TEL and originally American Telephone and Telegraph owned by Bell Telephone Company started by Alexander Graham Bell.
8 Dec 2017 09:59 - +83
*69 used to be the poor mans caller ID *67 hid your number
8 Dec 2017 05:42 - +78
Imagine if nobody had - we'd have extra buttons that did nothing but be called a feature.
8 Dec 2017 09:11 - +49
Also they were key to Bill and Ted being able to use the time machine.
8 Dec 2017 11:36 - +31
a sidenote re: phone numbers- okay so you know [the mr. plow commercial in the simpsons](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uYXEt7xOh1M), where homer says his number is something like "klondike 5-3226" and it's listed in the commercial "KL5-3226"? so i was wondering what the hell was up with that- is it a fictional numbering thing? but no, it ends up that back before area codes were implemented, people dialed into central offices based on neighborhood, with an abbreviation for the central office name instead of an area code. it was used as a way of having the flexibility of dialing someone from another region without having to dick around with calling the operator and requesting a connection first. this meant that all you had to know for someone's number is their general area in the neighborhood and a 5 digit number specific to the person. so for example, in say, Harlem, NY, if you wanted to call a person with the number of 4-9499, you would dial HA4-9499, or 424-9499. different regions had different abbreviation and number systems; for example some areas of the us had a 3-letter, 4-digit number system (3-4 system it was called iirc). anyways, this ended up becoming problematic because phone usage exploded and they started running out of numbers. also, the need to call long distance became a thing, so then they devised the actual area code system, with states having their own 3 digit prefixes before the 7 digit number- but then it ended up that the area code system ran out of numbers, so then they had to split areas into more area codes. this happens even to this day. and, interestingly enough, there was a huge pushback by a certain population of the public who refused to go to an all-number phone dialing system. something about assigning people as numbers and being treated as numbers instead of human? which doesn't hold up to scrutiny as the area abbreviation gets translated into a number anyways, and that's not to mention the actual remaining numbers assigned to specifically dial someone... it was basically resisting change for the sake of resisting change imo; they were stupid. so that's part of the reason why the simpsons have a KL5-XXXX number. it's a throwback to the old way of dialing. the OTHER part of the reason why they used the specific abbreviation "Klondike" is because "KL" or "55" was never used, as there aren't many words that start with J, K, or L in succession- "KL" being the only grammatically possible word (ie there's no words that start "Jl" or "Jk" or "Lk" or "Lj" unless it's some weird-ass welsh word or something, heh), so it wasn't used. this is also why the typical "hollywood" number of "555" in movies is used- there's no such phone number that starts with 555, a holdback from the previous "KL" omission from central office naming systems. so the simpson's phone number also follows the "movie phone number" convention of beginning with "555"- neat, huh. well, maybe not. i dunno. i hope someone reads this because this had bothered me for a long time and i can't be the only one who wondered about this.
8 Dec 2017 10:03 - +26
There is also a hidden 4th Column that was mapped as A, B, C, & D. These were set aside for programming, and are rare to find on DTMF phones, but they are there, in the spec, and I came across several while in college.
8 Dec 2017 09:55 - +22
*67 #prankcalls
8 Dec 2017 10:16 - +22
#OCTOTHORPE
8 Dec 2017 10:44 - +13
There's actually a 4th row, ABCD. Most phones don't have them installrd , but the tone is built into the dtmf standard. Miitary used to use them for call priority.
8 Dec 2017 09:55 - +13
Look what happens when companies invest in R&D. Absolutely beautiful invention. 👍👍
8 Dec 2017 10:04 - +9
This is what you get when the engineers run things. When the accountants get involved you pay for each key like DLC, or you have to hum the tones.
8 Dec 2017 10:58 - +7
My dad actually worked on the team that developed a lot of the vertical service codes (phone codes that use * and #) When they we're testing the first multi line group phoneing (party lines, 3 way calling etc) he had my sister and her friends test it out and they gabbed for hours on the phone.

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