I am of a “certain age” that remembers prank phone calls, heavy phone books, payphones (do any exist anywhere these days?), and calling the operator.
And, gasp, rotary phones. We had two rotary phones, one on the kitchen wall, and one down in the basement. You had to obtain phones ONLY from the phone company at that time. If you screwed up a number, redialing could be quite painful. I wonder how many people just dialed the operator and had her (yes, they were invariably of the female gender) to connect them.
I worked at one place, before the days of voice mail, where the switchboard was required to page people they could not put through. The woman who worked evenings, Helen, used to be an operator for the phone company, and I could swear her voice was exactly like the female voice you used to hear when you dialed a disconnected number: “The number you have reached, 555-555-5555, has been disconnected. No further information is available.” I wonder if they used her voice for that recording …
Now, prank phone calls are still alive and well and have adapted to the new technology (check out the Judge Judy and Dr. Phil soundboards), but ironically, such technology, especially caller ID, makes it quite easy for such calls to be traced. In the days before caller ID, it was open season for bored suburban kids whose parents were not home. Once my mother started working in order to make up for the loss of income that occurred during the rampant inflation of the seventies, we were sometimes at home, unsupervised. Supposedly too old for a babysitter.
We didn't do the usual, “Is there a John there? No. Then where do you go to the bathroom?” ones. One of my brothers and I prided ourselves on our geeky esoteric knowledge of Star Trek and Greek mythology. We would call people (and organizations; for some reason, we liked to call The Church of the Nazarene) asking for characters in Greek mythology like Zeus and Agamemnon or obscure Biblical figures like Miriam the sister of Moses.