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How to get your phone to work on those Press the Numbers on Your Keypad systems


Your phone works ok and you can phone people up, and the numbers work for dialling the phone number, but when you call those companies who have a voices that says "press the numbers on your keypad" it doesn't work.

"Press 1 for customer services, Press 2 to put a message on an answer machine, Press 3 if you want to hear about some fancy new offer that's irrelevant to you, Press 4 if you haven't got a phone, or for any other purposes, just wait and we'll read the whole lot of stuff again, and if you still don't press any keys we'll just hang up".

Yes, but not everyone has a phone with pushbuttons that work! No-one in the company has thought of that!

One solution is to wait and hope that the system will default to let you talk to the human. But if the company phone system is so badly designed that it assumes everyone has a working modern phone with pushbuttons that work, it could be tricky.

There is another technique which works on some phones. Take a look under the phone and along the sides and look for a small switch that says "pulse/tone" or "P / T". Sometimes it says "P / T / PB". Switch it into "Tone (T)" mode, and the chances are it will work! Give it a try. If you have no luck on this, you might like to consider buying a new phone. They're not expensive, at least not the "basic" phone. See BT Shop

How this pulse/tone thing works

In olden times, telephones had a dial which you put your finger in, turned, and released to dial the telephone numbers. The technology behind this involved switches which pulsed a signal down the line. Telephone exchanges had relays which understood this.

Then the newfangled beeping phones were invented and some people bought them and connected them up to their phone sockets. But the exchange still needed to understand the old "pulse" system as well as the new system which involved discordant bleeps or "tones". Some exchanges were upgraded earlier than others. Both systems existed for a while, so it was usual for a phone to have the option of being able to use "pulse" or "tone" so it could be switched to cope with whichever system was in use on that line.

There's a good chance that your phone has both "P" and "T" and a "P / T" switch on it somewhere. If you can dial telephone numbers but can't use those annoying "press 1 to do this and that" systems, the chances are that this can be fixed by adjusting that hidden switch to from "P" to "T". Good luck!

If your phone has no such switch, it could easily be an old style phone that has no "tone" facility. If so, keep it as a second phone, but consider getting a new phone so you can press the bleeping buttons. BT Shop is one of many places that sell phones. If you are asking an electrical shop about a phone, you should ask "does it have TONE dialling". (In practice you don't usually need to ask, as all the modern phones have it).

If you buy a phone from a charity shop, it's quite likely that it has a P/T switch and the previous owner gave the phone to the charity shop because they didn't know about the switch.

Special note: If your phone is of the old style "Post Office Number2" type, with a physical dial which turns, I can tell you now that it does not have tone dialling! It's a pulse dial phone has no tone dial. Don't throw it away, as these things are regarded as "retro" and are sought after by fashionable people who believe that old is the new new. And, if it's a black bakelite phone with a shiny metal dial, it's an antique, and becoming more valuable.

Meanwhile, back on the pulse/tone phone adjusting trick, if you find a switch, you're in luck, and you can switch it to "T" to get those pushbuttons to work on "Select the number to..." oh how annoying those things can be!

Move the switch into the new position. Then put the phone down. Wait a second or two. Then pick it up again. (You have to be patient and give these things a chance to take effect).

Incidentally, you can also get a phone (old or new) to do letters as well as numbers. See Phone Dial Letters

I hope that helps! If so, then that's great! But if not, sorry I can't enter into correspondence about it, because I'm sure you can guess how busy it would get if I was technical support for everyone's phones. However, I can show you a lot of other useful stuff about phones, including BT Privacy which helps to stop annoying unwanted phone calls, and then there's the 411 feature which not everyone knows about yet, and a few other things. There are thousands of pages at this site, most of which aren't about phones, but are about a great many different things. It's a site about almost everything. Takes weeks to see it all.