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In the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "Togeather", S03E15, at 17:17, you see a drunk man leaving a telephone without putting it on its handle, with the person he was talking to begging him to "break the connection" because he "needs to call somebody else". The drunk man ignores the voice and seemingly forgets all about ever talking on the telephone, leaving the building. The person on the other end is stuck in a room with just a telephone and is trying to get out.

Is this not a plot hole? Would not a telephone call, now as well as back then, automatically "terminate" immediately or shortly after one of the two "puts the handle in its place"? Why would he be worried about the other side not putting on their handle? Why would that matter?

This makes me wonder. If you could truly indefinitely keep a line open for anyone who calls you, by simply not hanging up on your end, the potential for abuse is endless. I refuse to believe that this was ever the case without some really good proof.

The costs you could force upon helpless callers alone would be enough, but imagine if they need to call the cops or something really important... It simply cannot be the case.

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    $\begingroup$ Since Mexico's telecom is years behind US' (well it was now it's catching up) in the late 90's you could pick up the phone HOURS later than speaking to someone and the call would still be connected if the other party did not hang up properly. In the early 2000's that was fixed and if one of the callers hung up for more than a certain amount of time your call would automatically disconnect. Yes it was a major issue, it caused really big problems and some family members hate each other for doing that by accident. $\endgroup$ – Media Feb 14 '20 at 16:00
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    $\begingroup$ No, the call would not automatically cancel - switchboards did not work like the smartphones you are used to. $\endgroup$ – Solar Mike Feb 14 '20 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ Solar Mike: You clearly aimed to insult me by saying "the smartphones you are used to", suggesting that I'm some kind of dumb kid, but the fact is that not only do I not own a "smartphone" -- you wouldn't catch me dead with one anywhere near me, or a "non-smart" cellphone either. $\endgroup$ – Shaindel Feb 14 '20 at 16:05
  • $\begingroup$ Only if Eddie Haskell from "Leave it to Beaver" is making the call ! :-) $\endgroup$ – William Hird Feb 14 '20 at 18:47
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If you could truly indefinitely keep a line open for anyone who calls you, by simply not hanging up on your end, the potential for abuse is endless.

That's the way the POTS (plain old telephone system) worked. The caller controlled the line.

This "feature" was exploited by criminals who called the police stations from phone boxes and ripped the handsets out of the call boxes so that the police lines were held busy during a heist.

I refuse to believe that this was ever the case without some really good proof.

That's your choice.

If you want to prove it then make a call from a landline telephone and ask the other end to hang up for an hour. Keep the line open and they should hear you when they pick up the handset again.

The costs you could force upon helpless callers alone would be enough, but imagine if they need to call the cops or something really important...

  • The charges would apply to the caller, not the called.
  • The caller can hang up at any time and will get the dial tone on handset pickup.
  • The called party will not be able to make or receive calls unless they have the ability to place a call on hold to make a second call.

It simply cannot be the case.

Oh yes it can.

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    $\begingroup$ by the 70s in the US, the caller could hang up immediately, the receiver if they hung up would be disconnected in about 10 seconds. $\endgroup$ – Tiger Guy Feb 14 '20 at 17:10
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    $\begingroup$ That sounds backwards, @Scott. If the caller hangs up the line is released immediately. But I agree that the electronic exchanges are/were capable of much more than the old pulse / Strowger exchanges. $\endgroup$ – Transistor Feb 14 '20 at 17:14
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    $\begingroup$ "receiver" as I used it means the person who was called. Lol, forgot phones had receivers. $\endgroup$ – Tiger Guy Feb 14 '20 at 17:16
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This is still done by scammers who want to trick somebody into believing there is something wrong with the internet connection of their PC, and that some malware on their PC can disconnect their phone line permanently.

To "prove" the phone is disconnected, they ask the victim to hang up and call them back. They simply leave their own phone off the hook, so when the victim picks up his/her phone the call is still in progress and the victim can't get a dial tone.

The scammers will then call back and start asking for the victim's personal information that "they need to fix the problem". It only works on landline phones, of course.

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    $\begingroup$ Other scammers tell the victim to call their bank using the number on their bank card, hold the line open and simulate a dial tone until they hear the victim start dialing. This is followed by a ring tone and switching the call through to another voice. $\endgroup$ – Transistor Feb 15 '20 at 9:10
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This was the case in Australia in the late 70's at least. The phones were pulse dialling then, in my case with an automatic exchange. You could call someone, converse, and the person you called would hang up. If you kept holding the handset (because you were concentrating hard on writing notes) you could talk to them again if they picked the phone up. Of course the calls were all charged by time, with a tiny noise every 3 minutes when you would be charged.

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