By in Technology

Old Tech: Do You Remember the Busy Signal?

Several times in recent weeks I've had a child – one of my own, or a friend using our phone – hang up with a puzzled look on their face and redial, only to hang up again and say their call hadn't gone through. “The number isn't working,” they all say.

When asked what happened each child had the same response: there was a strange beeping noise on the line.

Inevitably an adult will pick up the phone and try to ferret out the problem. Can you guess what it is?

I've come to the realization that this is just one in a long list of things people in my generation took for granted, but that children of today find puzzling. It belongs in the same category as beepers, cassette tapes and 8 track players, actual dials on phones, and vinyl records.

Because in this world of call waiting, call forwarding, and every member of a family having their own mobile phone, it almost never happens. Life revolves around instant gratification, texting to the point where the phone looks like it has been surgically attached to one's hands, and a 24-hour communication link with the entire planet.

That's right, kids today don't recognize a busy signal!

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Image credit: Phone by Steve Buissinne/Pixabay ( CC0 1.0 )

This article was previously published on another site, and I've chosen to migrate it here for better exposure.

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MarshaMusselman wrote on October 16, 2014, 8:52 AM

I was going to say that I still hear that once in a while, so you're saying that your phone is from prehistoric times, lol?

Ruby3881 wrote on October 16, 2014, 9:40 AM

I think it was more a question of the phone company not cutting in on that line, to offer the busy call return! That message always covers the sound of the busy signal, so few kids have ever heard it!

Feisty56 wrote on October 16, 2014, 10:14 AM

Wouldn't today's youth be even more amazed to pick up the receiver and hear someone else's conversation, such as we did when party lines were the norm?

momathome wrote on October 16, 2014, 2:51 PM

I doubt my kids would either, but so many phone companies give away call waiting for free so everyone has it now. Back when I was a kid it was a "premium" service that was available for an added fee but now they consider it a part of normal phone service and so you never hear them anymore, lol.

momathome wrote on October 16, 2014, 2:52 PM

I remember the first time that happened to me. We were visiting a family member who lived WAY out in the country and they still had party line service out there. My grandma caught me "listening in" (I was 5) and I got into all kinds of trouble! lol.

Feisty56 wrote on October 16, 2014, 3:00 PM

When I first explained what a party line was to my now-adult kids, they thought I was making it up!

momathome wrote on October 16, 2014, 3:21 PM

Feisty56 If it hadn't been for some of my family living in the "sticks" (as my mother would say), I wouldn't have probably known about it either, lol. I told my kids about it once and they thought I was pulling their legs, too.

AliCanary wrote on October 16, 2014, 3:39 PM

That's hilarious. I got one a little while ago, but these days there is usually a recorded voice telling you that the line is busy and offering to redial it for a fee.

AliCanary wrote on October 16, 2014, 3:40 PM

We didn't have a party line, but that happened to us sometimes when picking up the upstairs extension.

Ruby3881 wrote on October 16, 2014, 6:05 PM

Wouldn't it be a laugh to get a look at their faces when that happened!

Ruby3881 wrote on October 16, 2014, 6:07 PM

My mother lived in the country when she was younger. She told us about it when we were kids, but then we'd also seen it on shows like the Walton's. So it wasn't hard to believe :)

Ruby3881 wrote on October 16, 2014, 6:08 PM

It is rare now, isn't it? And with voicemail provided by the phone company, if the call waiting ever failed, you'd likely go straight to the call answer feature...

Ruby3881 wrote on October 16, 2014, 6:10 PM

That's exactly it. My kids were used to hearing that recording, but in some places out here it seems they don't offer that feature.

JanetJenson wrote on October 16, 2014, 8:00 PM

It is another now generation. I wonder how many more of those we are going to have before something changes.

momathome wrote on October 16, 2014, 11:11 PM

Ruby3881 I don't think I've heard a busy signal in at least 3 years -- I'd probably be confused for a second if I heard one now, too. lol

Ruby3881 wrote on October 18, 2014, 1:51 AM

LOL, that's funny Lee Anne! I actually was a little taken aback at first when I heard the busy signal. It took me a minute to realize that I was having a tough time recognizing it because there wasn't a female voice saying, "Let Bell notify you...."

Ruby3881 wrote on October 18, 2014, 1:55 AM

So much has changed between my generation and my kids'! We used record players when we were younger. And heck, I even owned an 8-track player on my first stereo! My kids have never known a world without computers, mobile phones, or the internet. They've seen records and tapes, and they definitely remember VHS tapes. But even corded phones and radio alarm clocks seem ancient to them :)