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A Short History of a Short Tone: The Dial Tone

Did you ever pick up the phone in another country and miss our North American dial tone? When I spent three years abroad, I never got used to the various tones I heard in my ear, both the dial tones and the ringing tones. It seems like a small thing, but when I finally moved back to New York, the dial tone was one of the most comforting things I experienced!

So what’s the deal with our warm dial tone? Well, for starters, it’s not just one frequency, it’s two tones that modulate or “beat” together quickly between 350 Hz and 440 Hz. Most of Europe, by comparison, uses a single 425Hz tone.

In the old days, when operators used to place calls for people, there was no dial tone. But then, in the 1940s, when automated systems were developed, phone companies figured out that their customers were seriously confused by the lack of response/silence. You can imagine why, right? For eons, you’d pick up the phone and a polite woman would ask where you wanted to call. Now you picked up the receiver and nothing! To avoid this confusion, exchange systems started playing what they called a “comfort noise” – and like that, the dial tone was born.

If all this dial-tone-talk has got you itching to actually hear one, by all means, that is what we've loaded on the play bar below:

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ABBA Is Going on Tour—As Holograms
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AFP/Stringer/Getty Images

Missed your chance to watch ABBA perform live at the peak of their popularity? You’re in luck: Fans will soon be able to see the group in concert in all their chart-topping, 1970s glory—or rather, they’ll be able to see their holograms. As Mashable reports, a virtual version of the Swedish pop band is getting ready to go on tour.

ABBA split up in 1982, and the band hasn't been on tour since. (Though they did get together for a surprise reunion performance in 2016.) All four members of ABBA are still alive, but apparently not up for reentering the concert circuit when they can earn money on a holographic tour from the comfort of their homes.

The musicians of ABBA have already had the necessary measurements taken to bring their digital selves to life. The final holograms will resemble the band in the late 1970s, with their images projected in front of physical performers. Part of the show will be played live, but the main vocals will be lifted from original ABBA records and recordings of their 1977 Australian tour.

ABBA won’t be the first musical act to perform via hologram. Tupac Shakur, Michael Jackson, and Dean Martin have all been revived using the technology, but this may be one of the first times computerized avatars are standing in for big-name performers who are still around. ABBA super-fans will find out if “SOS” still sounds as catchy from the mouths of holograms when the tour launches in 2019.

[h/t Mashable]

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Cinera
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This VR Headset Promises a Movie-Viewing Experience That Rivals Theaters
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Cinera

Movies in 2017 are typically viewed one of two ways: on a big screen in the theater or from the comfort of your home. A new VR headset called Cinera claims to combine the best of both experiences. As Mashable reports, the device, currently seeking support on Kickstarter, lets viewers enjoy theater-quality home entertainment without so much as lifting their heads, let alone a finger.

Unlike other VR headsets on the market, Cinera is designed primarily for watching movies and TV shows rather than playing video games. Inside there are two screens—one for each eye—which create a 3D, IMAX-like effect. According to the product’s Kickstarter page, the picture resolution is eight times that of an iPhone and three times that of a professional theater screen. And because Cinera is all about enjoying theater-quality media in the comfort of a home setting, it includes one vital feature most VR headsets don’t have: an adjustable arm that holds up the hardware so your head doesn’t have to.

With less than a week to go in the campaign, Cinera has already surpassed its $50,000 funding goal at least five times over. Cinephiles looking for a different type of VR experience can reserve their headset for a pledge of $450 with shipments set to go out in November.

[h/t Mashable]

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