Owen Murphy Lady

Owen Murphy Lady

New York Telephone Standard Voice

In the 1960’s, New York Telephone had an excellent “standard voice” for all of their recorded announcements. Unfortunately, I don’t know what her real name was, but it is known that she worked for the Owen Murphy production company. Evan Doorbell’s “Sounds of Long Distance – Part 6” includes a master copy of the vacant code recording which was sent to central offices throughout the state:

Vacant Code Recording

I’m sorry, we are unable to complete your call as dialed. Please check the number and dial again, or ask your operator for assistance. This is a recording.

(to replay, click the X)

I always loved her musical voice, and place it only second to the great Jane Barbe. Besides the “vacant code” recording, she did beautiful versions of “all circuits busy”, “machine intercept” and of course, her legendary “permanent signal” recording:

All Circuits Busy Recording

I’m sorry. All circuits are busy now. Will you try your call again later, please? This is a recording.

(to replay, click the X)

Call Did Not Go Through Recording

I’m sorry. Your call did not go through. Will you please hang up and try again? This is a recording.

(to replay, click the X)

Machine Intercept Recording

I’m sorry. The number you have reached is not in service or temporarily disconnected. The number you have reached is not in service at this time. This is a recording.

(to replay, click the X)

There appears to be a receiver off the hook!

Permanent Signal Recording

This is a recording. Please hang up. There are penalties for leaving appears to be a receiver off the hook. Please check your main telephone and extension. Then try your call again. Thank you.

(to replay, click the X)

Movie Appearance – “The Town and the Telephone”

Though I don’t know her name, I believe I do know what she looked like. An old Bell System promotional film entitled “The Town and the Telephone” produced by the Owen Murphy company features a short clip of a woman calling Directory Assistance Information to get the new number of Wilson’s meat market:

The new number is WRight-5-6240

The movie has no credits for the actors, but she certainly sounds like the same voice, don’t you think? Here’s a mash-up of New York Telephone recordings against the movie clip as an additional comparison:

The new number is WRight-5-6240?

At first that number seemed odd to me; the Phone Company typically used “555” (e.g.: KLondike-5) for fictitious phone numbers in movies or on TV, so as to avoid anyone’s real phone number getting flooded with nuisance calls. The exchange name “WRight” would also be prone to misdials (e.g.: RIght-5) if used for a real-life central office. However, a recent post by the famous telephone (and movie) historian, Mark Cuccia, explains that before they settled on “555”, a few other prefixes were also specifically not assigned to subscribers including “975” (WRight-5).

Kitty Carlisle – Panel Pulsing Ring

(to replay, click the X)

The charming and talented Kitty Carlisle sings the “No Such Number” vacant level intercept tone from a #1-Step central office in Montreal Quebec in this raucous ringtone which also features vintage telephone sounds from the famous GEdney-9 electromechanical “Panel” central office.

➤ Download this ringtone

GEdney-9 Panel Pulsing Ring

(to replay, click the X)

This lively mashup ringtone combines ringback tone from the famous GEdney-9 panel exchange with the sounds of electromechanical revertive pulsing. Towards the end of the ringtone, a GEdney-9 busy signal joins in, alerting you that time left to answer your call is running out!

➤ Download this ringtone

GEdney-9 Panel Exchange

” alt=”77th Street Central Office” width=”500″ height=”221″ /> 77th Street Central Office – Home of the GEdney-9 Panel Exchange

Recorded in 1977 by Ben Decibell – From  Evan Doorbell’s historic PhoneTrips library.

The GEdney-9 Panel Exchange was installed in New York Telephone’s “77th Street” Central office, located at 7703 3rd Avenue in Brooklyn.

GEdney-9 Panel Exchange

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tG14OkSd8j0&rel=0]

77th Street Central Office


Back in the day, the 77th Street Central office housed more than just the famous GEdney-9 Panel Exchange.


GEdney-9 Dial Tone

GEdney-9 was a wonderful panel exchange in New York City. Evan Doorbell’s PhoneTrips.com library has high quality recordings of calls dialed from this central office in the 1970’s. This next clip is a classic example of what is known as “Old City Dial Tone”. For dramatic effect, after about 50 seconds it transitions to another recording of dial tone, timing out; you can hear the panel revertive pulsing in the background as the call is connected to the permanent signal holding trunk. Ultimately, as the line is hung up, rich background sounds can be heard in this very high fidelity recording from Evan’s library:Can you hear how different from “Modern” dial tone it sounds? There’s a lot happening in the background. Here’s a side by side comparison of GEdney-9 dial tone versus “Modern” dial tone:

In the image below, “Modern” dial tone appears in the top trace and GEdney-9 dial tone on the bottom:

First of all, they’re based on different frequencies, so the the wavelengths are different. But look closely and notice that while the digitally-generated “Modern” tone waves are all perfectly smooth, GEdney-9’s all have slight bits of distortion; like snowflakes, no two are the same. That’s because the real GEdney-9 dial tone was not generated digitally; it came from large, rotating, motor-driven machinery. Background noise from the power supplies and the electromechanical switching equipment in constant operation added another, rich layer of character to the sound. You can really hear that influence of the background power supply noise when listening to the two side-by-side.

1920’s Tone Generator
1920s Ringing Machine

—from PanelSwitchman‘s collection on Flickr.

This is the type of rotating, electromechanical, tone generator and ringing machine that the GEdney-9 central office would have used.