Trivia

Hard

What Common Music Delivery System Was Discovered Completely By Accident?

Magnetic Tape
Satellite Radio
Compact Discs
Telephone Hold Music
An Alcatel Desk Phone with an RJ-12 Digital Line interface.
Goodtiming8871/Wikimedia

Answer: Telephone Hold Music

Hearing music while we’re on hold waiting to talk to a company representative is so common today that it’s hard to imagine there was a time where people just sat around listening to nothing at all while waiting on hold. What’s fascinating about hold music, or Music On Hold (MOH) as it’s known in the industry, is that it was completely accidental.

While you’d assume that hold music was purposely created for the benefit of bored customers stuck waiting on the line (and to indicate that the line was still active and hadn’t been disconnected), it was created (and subsequently patented) by accident.

In 1962, callers put on hold when calling the factory of Alfred Levy were treated to music. The customers complimented him on the nice touch (a touch which he had no idea existed) and he set to work investigating it. It turns out that a loose wire was touching a large metal girder in the factory which turned the metal shell of the factory into a huge antenna. When the calls were put on hold, the radio signal was able to overpower the line signal and the callers could hear music from the local radio station next door to the factory.

Levy patented a more purposefully designed hold music system in 1966 and the rest is history. Now we all get to enjoy smooth jazz or sanitized pop songs while waiting to talk to our insurance agents.

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