Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
This is a take on the common insult "<year> called and they want their <whatever> back," referring to something out of fashion (used before in comic #875). In this case, the '70s actually called (for an unknown reason), but did not leave a message. Instead, the caller is puzzled because answering machines and especially voicemail were rare or nonexistent in the 1970s, and his telephone has a rotary dial, rather than a touch tone, so he can't "press 1".
Originally telephones had rotary dials instead of buttons. When you lifted the receiver you would hear a tone that let you know you had a connection and you could dial the number, this is the "dial tone." This is the origin of the phrases "dial tone" and "dialing a telephone number". Touch tone phones were introduced in the 1960s, but weren't standard in many places until the 1980s.
The title text plays off the fact that the telephone had not yet been invented in the 17th century. Randall uses the character "ſ", the long S, which takes the place of the modern "s" in the beginning and middle of words; it was used in written English back then.
- Cueball: Nice jacket. Hey—
- Cueball: The Seventies called.
- Out-of-panel: Oh? What'd they want?
- [Cueball looking at phone]
- Cueball: I don't know. They didn't leave a message.
- Out-of-panel: Weird.
- [Person in bell bottoms using a rotary phone to call the present day, with an incredulous look on his face.]
- Voicemail service: If you'd like to leave a message, press "1".
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Can someone comment on the S-es in image's title text? I can read it, but don't know what they mean. Probably some old spelling.
Done Blaisepascal (talk) 16:52, 13 August 2012 (UTC)
Answering machines certainly had been invented by the 1970s (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Answering_machine). The first practical commercial models started appearing in the 1960s and I had one that used an endless reel of magnetic tape in the 70s. Jonat (talk) 16:20, 6 December 2012 (UTC)
Touch tone phones were certainly around in 1974, although dial phones were still prevalent. Touch Tone dialing was introduced in the late 60s (it was a sufficient novelty that if you visited someone with TouchTone, they'd show it off) The "press 1" aspect came much later, with automatic voice response (AVR) systems, probably mid 80s, although dial phones were still in use ("or wait to be connected to an operator"). As noted by Jonat, answering machines with cassettes, loops, or reel to reel tapes were quite common in the 70s, as a result of the Carterfone decision allowing interconnection to the public switched system in the US.184.108.40.206 04:56, 22 January 2013 (UTC)Jim Lux
I've never encountered those "press 1 to leave a message"-type answering machines, only ones where it says: "[person you wanted to call] is not available at this moment. Please leave a message after the beep. *beep*". Maybe it's a US thing. 220.127.116.11 11:59, 8 December 2013 (UTC)
- Most voicemail systems here in the US, you just leave a message after the beep, and press 1 at the end for more options afterward before sending your message (e.g., to delete it and re-record). Some answering machines, though, (like the one on my landline) let a caller choose from several mailboxes by pressing a mailbox number during the outgoing message (e.g., "To leave a message for Aaron, press 1. To leave a message for Bob, press 2."). Most likely, Randall's just taking a small liberty to make the joke work. --Aaron of Mpls (talk) 20:20, 20 December 2013 (UTC)
Why does this revision say he has an incredulous look on his face, when he doesn't have a face? 18.104.22.168 03:04, 20 June 2014 (UTC)
- I've seen many incredulous chins in my time, and that chin reeks of incredulity. Kev (talk) 22:45, 17 January 2015 (UTC)