Archive for June, 2010

The Slowest Dial is Mexico City

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

(or: When Systems Are Engineered, Who Gets the Best Addresses?)

In a project I’ve been working on about addressing systems in communication infrastructure (excited yet?), I’ve been telling people that early phone numbers were organized in part around the time it took to dial them on rotary telephones.


[a rotary dial — click to enlarge — photo by zen on flickr]

You see, youngsters, the weighted dial on a rotary telephone requires a fixed amount of time to dial each number.  It’s about one second per ten values so that the amount of time goes up as the number goes up, with one being the fastest number to dial (about a tenth of a second or 1 click) and zero being the slowest (about one second or 10 clicks).  These time estimates don’t include moving your fingers around, mind you.

You could say, who cares?  But if you add up all of the seconds required to dial and multiply by all of the phone calls, that’s a lot of seconds people spend dialing those nines and zeroes.

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