Dial A Disc
Dial A Disc
By: jbhthescots@mac.com, Categories: Words & Images, 1 comment



Who remembers the old “Dial-a-Disc” service of the 1960s and 1970s provided on the old GPO phone system in the UK? Dial 160 (if I remember rightly) and you would get the Spotify of that era, with a hit song played over the phone for you, and all for the price of a local call.


A typical recording went something like this… “This is the Post Office ‘Dial-a-Disc’ Service. Here is Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep by Sally Carr & Middle of the Road.” I stress I only use this as an example, and NOT that in my pre-teens I was particularly taken by Glasgow’s very own Sally Carr and her really, really, really short & very tight hot pants, and would request listening to this over and over again.  And yes, it was the first single I bought.


Many young teens waited in anticipation for the parents to leave the house just to listen to the days pop record on Dial-A-Disc that was played in a continuous loop! However there was hell to pay when the phone bill came in.  Also,  many households never had their own phone, so it was not uncommon to see a group of kids hanging around one of those iconic red phone boxes, as you could get a sneak preview of the song before you put your 2p in.


But as with any technological system, it was open to hacking. By the 1970s five million discs were being dialled a year, an increasing number for free – and all from those pesky kids in the phone boxes! Though designed to be accessed from private lines, kids soon discovered that by putting money in the slot of a payphone and dialling the service, then hanging up seconds before the disc finished, they could get their money back.


I was often reminded of the Dial-a-Disc service whenever I went into any of those wonderful EasyStreet Records stores in Seattle, because – thanks to the increase of mobile phones – they had redundant payphone booths recycled into impromptu listening booths in their shops. A great idea! Now, if only we could do the same for dear old Sally…


Contax S2b & 1.4/85mm Zeiss
Kodak TMax 100 (@80)
Stand Development (Adonal 1+100 @ 60 min)
Plustek 7600i & Vuescan


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