Wednesday, February 20, 2013

John Karlin, Developer of All-Digit Dialing Dies at 94

As the home phone is posed to slowly fade into oblivion, many of us are unaware of the process that took the home phone from the realm of operator controlled call centers to completely automated digital call handling.  

Before John Karlin call handling had transformed from operators to mechanical switches.  But in the decades following WWII the number of home based private numbers outpaced the mechanical switch centers ability to absorb them.  

Enter the DTMF system or Dual Tone Multi Frequency dialing which mixes two tones to represent a single number and as little as five frequencies mixed to produce 0 thru 9 plus room for two special keys.  This technology allowed the call centers to transit to filters and digital switches and the ability to handle substantially more calls. 

But the shift to the new system required a paradigm shift in the design of the phone. 
From the article:
  • The rectangular design of the keypad, the shape of its buttons and the position of the numbers — with “1-2-3” on the top row instead of the bottom, as on a calculator — all sprang from empirical research conducted or overseen by Mr. Karlin. 
2013 is the 50th anniversary of the introduction of the touch-tone phone.  In those 50 years, Karlin's designs have affected many more technologies than the phone.  The keyboard design alone has become innocuous  finding itself incorporated in dissimilar items as the microwave oven to cellular phones.   And to consider that John Karlin made such stunning contributions to the very nature of how we use technology was virtually unknown outside his field.  

Original article in the New York Times 2/8/13 by By Margalit Fox

submitted by xnewsman

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