WTF Fun Fact 13632 – The Yellow Pages are Yellow

The iconic Yellow Pages, a staple in homes and businesses for decades, owes its existence to a happy accident. In the late 19th century, when phone directories were a novel concept, these business listings were simply a part of the regular phone book printed on standard white paper.

However, a paper shortage at a  Cheyenne, Wyoming-based printer led to an improvisational moment that would mark the beginning of a global phenomenon.

The Birth of an Icon

During a routine printing run, the publisher ran out of white paper. In a bid to continue production without delay, the printer resorted to using yellow paper as an alternative. This unexpected choice not only solved the immediate problem but also led to an unforeseen advantage.

The Yellow Pages stood out distinctly from the rest of the phone book, making it easier for users to flip directly to the business listings.

The Rise of the Yellow Pages

The yellow hue offered more than just visual differentiation. Users found that the softer, warmer yellow was easier on the eyes compared to the starkness of white pages. This enhanced readability significantly improved the user experience, encouraging more frequent use of the business listings.

The immediate popularity was not lost on the publishers. Recognizing the potential, they quickly branded this section of the phone book as the “Yellow Pages.” This branding was a stroke of marketing genius. It not only gave them an identity separate from the white pages of personal listings but also made it a household name.

The success of the Yellow Pages quickly caught on, and publishers around the world adopted the yellow hue for their business directories. The distinct color became synonymous with business listings. The brand grew to represent reliability and comprehensiveness, turning into the go-to source for finding businesses and services.

The Yellow Pages Today

With the advent of the internet and digital technology, the Yellow Pages faced a significant shift. The bulky physical directories began to seem outdated in the face of online search engines and digital directories. However, the brand adapted, transitioning its vast database of business listings to online platforms. This digital transformation allowed them to maintain relevance in the modern age.

Despite the decline in the usage of physical directories, the legacy endures. The term “Yellow Pages” is still used colloquially to refer to business directories, even in the digital realm. The brand’s transition to online platforms ensures that it continues to serve its fundamental purpose – connecting consumers with businesses.

A Testament to Adaptability

The story of the Yellow Pages is a testament to adaptability and the power of branding. What began as a makeshift solution to a paper shortage evolved into a globally recognized brand, one that has skillfully navigated the challenges of a digital world. It stands as a reminder that sometimes, the most enduring innovations come from unexpected places and circumstances.

It may no longer be the physical directory that once graced every household, but its spirit lives on in the digital directories we use today. Its journey from yellow paper to digital screens is a fascinating chronicle of innovation, branding, and adaptation in the ever-changing landscape of technology and business.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “What happened to the Yellow Pages?” — Growth Business

WTF Fun Fact 12651 – The Military Researchers Who Turned a Cat Into a Phone

Have you ever wanted to turn a cat into a telephone? We haven’t either. But in 1929, two Princeton University researchers gave it a go anyway. Apparently, they weren’t cat lovers.

Professor Ernest Glen Wever and his research assistant Charles William Bray performed the experiment that involved a live but unconscious (thankfully!) cat in order to see how the auditory nerve perceives sound.

That’s a fancy way of saying they sedated a cat, opened its skull, accessed its auditory nerve, and attached a telephone wire to it. The other end of the wire was connected to a telephone receiver.

While many of us may turn up our noses at the thought of animal research, it has saved and improved many human lives. Bray and Wever weren’t even interested in making a cat into a telephone for any practical purpose (not that we could even think of one anyway). Instead, they were interested in the research methods used to run the tests, which paved the way for more sophisticated research on human hearing and made contributions to devices called cochlear implants that convert sound vibrations into electrical signals in the brain for deaf people.

Despite not caring much about creating a cat phone, the experiment did work, and Bray was able to speak into the cat’s ears while Wever listened through the receiver 50 feet away in a soundproof room.

Princeton’s Mudd Manuscript Library wrote a blog describing it in more detail. They say:

“The common notion during this time was that the frequency of the response of a sensory nerve is correlated to the intensity of the stimulus. In the case of the auditory nerve, as a sound becomes louder, the frequency or pitch of the sound received by the ear should be higher. When Bray made a sound with a certain frequency, Wever heard the sound from the receiver at the same frequency. As Bray increased the pitch of the sound, the frequency of the sound Wever heard also increased. This experiment proved that the frequency of the response in the auditory nerve is correlated to the frequency of the sound.”

Wever and Bray received the first Howard Crosby Warren Medal of Society by the Society of Experimental Psychologists in 1936 for the experiment.

Later, both men entered military research. Bray became the Associate Research Director of the U.S. Air Force Human Resources Research and then served on the civilian psychological research team for the National Defense Research Council and the Navy. Wever became a consultant to the National Research Council on anti-submarine warfare.

And cats worldwide likely rejoiced that they found other things to do. – WTF fun facts

Source: “The Cat Telephone” — Mudd Manuscript Library Blog

WTF Fun Fact 12570 – The Telephone’s Real Inventor

In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell was one of a handful of men who were working on a machine that transmitted vocal communications telegrphically. But we only remember him because he got to the patent office first (and he was already a well-known inventor).

Historians and government officials have since reexamined the research and found that Bell wasn’t actually the first to create the world-changing technology. That honor goes to an Italian-American immigrant and mechanical genius from Florence, Antonio Meucci.

In fact, in 2002, U.S. Congress recognized an impoverished Florentine immigrant as the inventor of the telephone rather than Alexander Graham Bell. The Guardian reported, “Historians and Italian-Americans won their battle to persuade Washington to recognize a little-known mechanical genius, Antonio Meucci, as a father of modern communications, 113 years after his death.”

“It is the sense of the House of Representatives that the life and achievements of Antonio Meucci should be recognized, and his work in the invention of the telephone should be acknowledged,” the resolution stated. (You can read the resolution (107th Congress, H Res 269) on

While you might think there was a mad dash to the patent office, it’s actually the case that 16 years went by between Meucci’s demonstration of his “teletrofono” in New York in 1860 and Graham’s 1876 patent.

However, it was Bell’s telephone design that ended up being used to create the first telephones, so he does deserve some pretty massive credit. It’s just that Meucci deserves some and well and never really gets it.

The title of the most annoyed competitor of Bell’s likely goes to Elisha Gray, a professor at Oberlin College. He actually sent his lawyer to the patent office on the same day. Bell’s lawyer got to the desk first on February 14, 1876. His filing was the fifth entry of the day, while Gray’s lawyer was 39th. The U.S. Patent Office awarded Bell with the first patent for a telephone (US Patent Number 174,465).

Some historians actually claim that Bell knew what was happening and may have bribed someone at the patent office to doctor documents showing his patent came in first, but we’ll probably never know. – WTF Fun Fact

Source: “Who is credited with inventing the telephone?” — Library of Congress