What is Rotary Dialling?

Last Update: August 9th, 2021

Rotary dialing is a method of telephone number dialing used on older telephone systems. It involved turning a wheel to make a designated number of clicks.


Rotary phones are telephones that use a wheel that makes clicks for dialing telephone numbers.


When a number is selected, it made that many clicks onto the phone line. For example ‘3’ would make three clicks, ‘9’ would make nine clicks, etc.

While most rotary phones have disappeared, their clicking function hasn’t. A “pulse” option is still present on most landline phones. “Pulse” emulates the rotary sound, and is an alternative to the “tone” method used by most phones.

In some circles where vintage equipment is in fashion, rotary phones are making a return. While the rotary dialing system is not compatible with many VoIP phone systems or touch-tone phone menus, there are adapters available.

Interest in rotary phones lives on in places such as the Classic Rotary Phone Forum and projects such as interfacing a rotary dial with an Arduino unit.

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