Posted: 09/12/2013 at 12:58
re postmen at Christmas, was that in Scotland? on remember being told that they have only been celebrating Christmas in Scotland since the war.
Dunno - my Mum talked about getting Christmas presents when she was little, and she was born in 1925, so not WW2. Don't know about pre WW1.
I have a better 'old telephone' story.
In Australia, the emergency number is 000.
Now think about the old phones, the ones that you had to wind around the dial and wait for it to go back to its original position before doing the next number ..... where were the zeros? They were at the very end .....
So imagine an emergency, you would have to put your finger on the zero, then wind it all the way around, wait for it to go back, then repeat twice more to get connected.
If you were in a burning building you would be dead by the time you could even dial the emergency number.
There was a very good reason for that (and for 999 being the UK one). In the olden days (sound of violins in the background), before digital communications, numbers were registered by a series of taps on the line. If you watch some old B&W movies, someone will pick up the receiver and click the base several times to be connected to an operator - it was the sound that alerted the operator that someone wanted to make a call, and it was connected by the operator physically putting a plug into a socket. This developed into an automated system, and the clicks were generated by the dial on the phone - if you are old enough to remember the dial phones, you will remember the distictive sound of the dial turning and then returning to it's starting point.
Suppose the emergency number were 111 (which makes sense for "speed dialling" on an old style phone as you say). Now, if a crow (other birds are available) were to be sitting on the overground telephone wire, and pecked the wire 3 times, this would be picked up as an emergency call, using up one of the (pretty limited) number of lines available. By the time the emergency services had established that it wasn't a real emergency call, someone else could be sizzling.
I have no experience, but I'd imagine it would be difficult to train a bird to tap 3 x 9 times on a telephone wire, therefore making 999 an unambiguous number to be the emergency call out.
In saying that, once you were used to them, dialling numbers didn't take all that long. Not sure I'd fancy dialling a mobile on one, but when I was very young local numbers were only 3 digits, and area codes only 4.