AquariumYou probably know that typists always warm up with Now it the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country. A man told us one day that similar tests are used in trying out telephones, telegraph wires, etc., citing a couple of interesting examples, and we sent one of our detail workers to get further facts. The Bell Laboratories test the volume of a new telephone with Joe took Father's shoe bench out and She was waiting at my lawn. Lots of vowels, you see.
For testing articulation, words with lots of consonants are used, because unless an instrument can transmit consonants properly --- especially "s," the hardest of all --- it's no good. The Bell Company uses for this Sister Susy sewing silk shirts for Southern soldiers and Some settlers suggest settling Southern settlements in succession, which is a honey. A tester keeps phoning these sentences over and over to another tester in another room. Some of these gentlemen have been doing it for years, but none of them has ever gone crazy.
Mr. John Mills, who's been with the Bell people for twenty-three years, told us that decades ago they used to use Mary had a little lamb and Mary, Mary quite contrary. After that, there was a vogue for One, two, three, four, five, but that got tiresome. In 1915, a man named Heising used to run through the list of Presidents, from Washington to Wilson. He never made a slip. Nobody remembers who invented the shoe-bench and the waiting-lady lines. Nobody cares who thought up the Sister Susy and the Southern-settlement lines.
The cable companies use: Freshest eggs at bottom market prices and She is his sister. The first sentence consists mainly of dashes, the second of dots. Another line is used by the telegraph companies in the morning to test out any instrument that has lain idle all night, namely, our old friend Now is the time, etc.
Both Western Union and the Phone Company use teletypewriters extensively. You know: a letter struck on a typewriter in a New York office is electrically reproduced on a machine in some other city. The Phone Company tests with The quick brown fox jumped over the lazy dog's back and Western Union sends William Jax quickly taught five dozen Republicans.
In studying teltypewriting, typists practice on finger-breakers like these: Widow whizz whip; pique 2010X; make zigzag up Ave. and Julia, vivid coquette, why go Zanzibar if fog awes Max? and Quick, Jim, put fez away; find jovial squaw by aquarium.
For radio telephony, the A. T. & T. sends The barking dog's bark is worse than its bite. If the circuit isn 't working properly, the words will be "clipped" and the sentence will sound like The arking og's ark is worse than its ite.
There is also a telephoto test for pictures sent out by wire. One of the first telephotos transmitted by the Telephone Company was Coolidge's inauguration, and a picture of the east side of the Capitol in Washington, taken when the stand was being arranged, is always sent out as a test before the transmission of any picture. It contains 350,000 tiny little squares called "details," an average number for a picture, and is therefore a good standard test.--- From the New Yorker
1 February 1936
As quoted in About Town
by Ben Yagoda (Scribner)