What You May Not Know About the * and # Buttons On Phones



Over a century ago, if you had a phone at all, you had to call the operator to reach a number. Dial phones weren’t introduced until 1916, and touch-tone service didn’t appear until 1964. Originally, there were no * or # buttons on phones because they hadn’t been invented yet. In 1968, they were added to phones, but no one knew what to do with them. AT&T simply figured they may as well put the extra buttons on, just in case someone figured out a use for them. By the 1980s, people had figured out what to do with them. AT&T introduced a series of “star codes” that let callers do things like call back the person who just called (*69), while the # button became useful for a generation of voice-mail systems that proclaimed, “To finish, press pound.” Of course, today it bears the name “hashtag,” but that’s a whole other story.