Greensburg, Carnegie made phone history as the first cities with touch-tone phones |

Greensburg, Carnegie made phone history as the first cities with touch-tone phones

Jacob Tierney

Southwestern Pennsylvania made telephonic history in November 1963.

Carnegie and Greensburg were first cities in the nation to get Bell Telephone’s touch-tone phones, which would eventually eclipse the old-fashioned rotary models.

Bell used the municipalities as test sites before bringing the phones nationwide.

According to newspaper reports from the time, it cost customers an extra $1.50 a month to try the new phones, starting Nov. 18, 1963.

The early models mostly resembled the button layout on modern phones, although the star and pound keys wouldn’t arrive until five years later.

The Tribune-Review described the new phones as “space age telephony,” with “missile-like speed and musical tones” during an early test in 1961.

These days, even “space age” landlines are passé. According to Pew Research, 96% of Americans own cellphones, and 81% own smartphones Only 45 percent of Americans still own a landline, according to a 2018 survey by the National Center for Health Statistics.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jacob at 724-836-6646, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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