“Tone” also known as “touch tone” dialing is the name given to phones that make a distinct beep when a keypad button is pressed.
Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition:
: of, relating to, or being a telephone having push buttons that produce tones corresponding to numbers
Oxford Dictionaries definition:
1. (of a telephone) having push-buttons and generating tones to dial rather than pulses.
1.1 (of a service) accessed or controlled by the tones generated by touch-tone telephones.‘touch-tone registration for Florida State University’
1. A touch-tone telephone. 1.1 A tone generated by a touch-tone telephone.
“Tone” dialing is often seen next to “pulse” (sometimes listed as “rotary,” “rotary/pulse,” or “pulse/rotary”) dialing, which emulates the ticking sound of rotary phones. Some phones and fax machines have the option to switch between tone and pulse.
Almost all of today’s phone systems are touch-tone phones. Rotary/pulse phones are still compatible with most traditional phone networks, however, are not compatible with many VoIP phone services.
The technology behind touch-tone is “dual-tone multi-frequency signaling,” or DTMF. Pressing a button on the keypad emits a pair of tones that can easily be heard by the phone system to route a call to the appropriate phone or fax number.
The term “touch tone” was registered as a trademark by AT&T in the 1950s.
- Wikipedia – Push Button Telephone – Wikipedia entry on the push-button telephone. Includes Touch Tone phone systems.
- Wikipedia – Dual-tone multi-frequency signaling – Wikipedia entry on DTMF, another term for touch-tone.
- Oxford Dictionaries – Touch-tone – Dictionary entry on the term “touch-tone.”
- Merriam-Webster Dictionary – Touch Tone – Dictionary entry on the term “touch tone.”
- CBC Business – Bell removes Touch-tone fee from bills, but customers still on the hook – News story of a Canadian telephone company removing the touch-tone fee from telephone bills in 2015.
- Frank Durda – Dual-tone Multi-Frequency (Touch-Tone) Reference – a simplified explanation of how DTMF (touch tone) phone systems operate.
- Mathworks Blogs – Touch-Tone Telephone Dialing – A detailed write up of how touch tone dialing works and how each tone communicates the number on the dialing pad.
- YouTube – AllSounds – Touch Tone Dialing Sound Effect – The sound of a touch-tone phone.