How to play 'Mary Had a Little Lamb' on a touch telephone

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Old Skewl Phone Hacks.

Expecting a late night call from a friend? Dial Moviefone and wait for the call waiting signal. Your parents will never know!


Our mom was in the hospital back in the mid-late 70s. My brother and I were not allowed up into the room so we stayed in the hospital lobby where there was a bank of courtesy phones. We sat down at two phones and held both handsets between our heads while each one of us played, basically, name that tune. Neither one of us could get Star Wars theme just right but that was the song that made the switchboard lady use the intercom to call us down. The neighbors we were sitting with fumed and I don’t think we ever were allowed back during that time or any of the follow up surgeries. Good times, good times!! :face_with_head_bandage:


7, 2222, 2, 3, 4, 5

I used to be able to play ‘Insomnia’ (by Faithless) on a touch phone many moons ago. :grin::smile:

That brings me back…

and for those more talented and creative than me, here’s the scoop on what the sounds were:
1 = 697 Hz + 1,209 Hz
2 = 697 Hz + 1,336 Hz
3 = 697 Hz + 1,477 Hz
4 = 770 Hz + 1,209 Hz
5 = 770 Hz + 1,336 Hz
6 = 770 Hz + 1,477 Hz
7 = 852 Hz + 1,209 Hz
8 = 852 Hz + 1,336 Hz
9 = 852 Hz + 1,477 Hz
* = 941 Hz + 1,209 Hz
0 = 941 Hz + 1,336 Hz
# = 941 Hz + 1,477 Hz

I was really excited to see a Rocky Horror song on there.

Then I listened to it. :frowning:

Might as well list for completeness:
FO = 697 Hz + 1,633 Hz
F = 770 Hz + 1,633 Hz
I = 852 Hz + 1,633 Hz
P = 941 Hz + 1,633 Hz

I’ve never heard those called anything but “A”, “B”, “C”, and “D”. Where are those names used?

Fun fact: on a Western Electric 2500 (like the white phone pictured here), you can isolate the row tone by pressing two buttons in one row (like 1 and 2) or isolate a column tone by pressing two buttons in a column.


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When I was a kid in the 1970s I had a small paperback book called The Pushbutton Telephone Songbook that covered quite a few tunes!!

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Call waiting? Get off my lawn, punk!

He’s got nothing on The Touchtone Genius.

Mary Had A Little Lamb? Pfft. Anyone figured out “Funky Town”?

This used to be how you’d put custom ringtones on a mobile :slight_smile:

I do remember a time before call waiting. My grandma paid a lot of money for an emergency breakthrough one time because I was on the phone for too long.

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Dunh da duh dut dut duh… dut dut dunh de de (wait, that’s Holst…)

According to this

The touchtone telephone sounds like what you get when you take “mi re do” and then make it into a multiplication chart.

Every row left to right: D E F#
Every column, top to bottom: F G A

Since you can make (moveable do) “mi re do” from any three in a row OR any three in a column, and “mi re do” are all you need to play most of that tune, isn’t the important question, how does one NOT play “Mary Had a Little Lamb”?