Why numbers are put in a certain sequence on telephones and calculators

We use telephones and calculators all the time. They are two things that every student has used in his/her life at least once. Telephone keeps us in touch with one another, while calculator makes life easy for people who are into math and for those who aren’t so much into math. But you must have wondered when you have opened your dial screen and saw the numbers, positioned in a certain way on the dialer and when you opened the calculator, you saw a different number pattern on it. Well, we have the reasons as to why numbers are placed in such patterns on both telephone and calculator respectively in the article below.


1 History of telephones and calculators

The telephone was invented in 1876 by Alexander Graham Bell and he made the first bi-directional transmission on March 10, 1876. During those times, there used to be just a receiver and a mouthpiece to talk into and you had to pick up the receiver and ask the operator to connect you to a certain number. Gradually the phones began to come with numbers in order for users to dial their own numbers. Starting of these numbers was in a circular ring, where numbers were dialed by rotating the corresponding number on a dial (hence dialing a number). Then in the 1960s, numeric keypads were invented and life has been easy since then.

The modern handheld calculator was invented by Texas Instruments who filed a patent for the same in 1972 and the inventors were listed as Jack Kilby, Jerry Merryman and James Van Tassel. The calculator ran on batteries and was small enough to be carried around and had a numerical keypad with numbers in a different sequence than a telephone.


Ever wondered why numbers are in a certain pattern on a phone and a certain pattern on a calculator? Keep reading ahead to know the answer.

History of telephones and calculators

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2 The placement of numbers on a telephone

The reason behind the certain pattern on numerical keypads on telephone is that Bells Lab carried out extensive research involving psychological analysis of how people wanted numbers on a keypad of a telephone. As you can see in the image below, there were many patterns drawn, suggested and categorized according to the ease of use to speed at which numbers could be dialed. Psychology says “People arrange numbers and letters in (the) order in which they normally read”. And finally a common pattern of putting numbers on a telephone keypad was made which would result in least dialing errors and that pattern is still used today, even on touchscreen phones.

placement of numbers on a telephone

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3 The placement of numbers on a calculator

As for the calculators, the company that invented and patented them was Texas instruments, which made the very handheld calculator in 1972. They decided to put the numbers with 7-8-9 on the top row because the machine that made the keypads was programmed and designed to put the numbers this way. This was based on old machines that did the calculating jobs and had 7-8-9 on top and workers had a habit of using the same pattern.

placement of numbers on a calculator

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