(The Board) Games People Play: #24, Dial Away

A board game that was made for you-oo…?

Monday 17 January 1983

I returned home from my paper round to find something strange. My mother didn’t have the radio tuned into Piccadilly Radio for Pete Baker’s show. Instead she was watching television, at 7.30 am. 7.30 am? Who in the right mind would have the telly on this early? Little did I know she was witnessing television history in the making. That of Selina Scott and Frank Bough on BBC Breakfast Time.

“What’s going on?” I thought “Soon they’ll be doing 24 hour television next”, which means no more closedowns. Ten minutes later, before I got my bus to Mossley Hollins, I asked my mum if I could ring Tricia to tell her about Breakfast Time. She refused.

10.30 pm: at 7.00 pm, I found the Tom Jones special a good excuse for doing my Geography homework. Going through the radio stations, I came across this song: it was Phone Home by Jonny Chingas. Obviously released to cash in with ET but a cool tune nonetheless.

In 1983, the soon-to-be-privatised British Telecommunications released a telephone themed board game.

Dial Away

Published by Waddingtons for British Telecom, Dial Away is a board game designed to publicise IDD: International Direct Dialling. Each player is handed a blue call card where he or she makes an imaginary call. Before making their ‘call’, they check the International Telephone Guide and Call Charge Sheet. This includes an international code, country code, and an area code. The player with the highest number on their call card starts the game.

The Dial Away board is circular and designed for four players. In the centre is a telephone dial (well, this was the norm for 1983). After you touch the dial, it lands on any of the segments on the board. Gradually, the correct number is revealed once the central board segments are removed.

Each player carries on till they have got the correct details. Opponents use the Red Check Cards to see if you have the right number. If you did, you have won the game. If you didn’t, your penalty is to talk for a minute on a given subject, after spinning the dial.

Rivetting stuff? If anything it sounds like Electronic Dream Phone without the Who’s This Hot Bloke Who Fancies Me? factor. Without the electronics of course. At face value, it lacks the intrigue of BP’s endorsed Offshore Oil Strike. This wasn’t BT’s last dance with proprietary games: as Telecomsoft, they launched the Firebird software label for 8-bit computers. Most notably with Elite, first seen on the BBC Model ‘B’ (via Acornsoft) before being ported to C64s ZX Spectrums and 16-bit machines.

You’ve Been Reading (The Board) Games People Play

(The Board) Games People Play is also the first instalment of the Mancunian Dreamer’s adventures as well as part of East of the M60’s Advent Calendar for 2017.

  • Mancunian Dreamer: James South;
  • James’s Girlfriend: Tricia Booth;
  • James’s Sister: Donna Louise South;
  • Caterers: Sunny Rose Café (1983), Andrew Jones Pork Pies (2017);
  • Music by: Piccadilly Radio and BBC Radio One (1983), YouTube and Spotify (2017).

An East of the M60 production by Stuart Vallantine, 01 – 24 December 2017.

The Mancunian Dreamer will return in (Who’s This) Charming Bloke? Details will appear on East of the M60 nearer to its release date.

S.V., 24 December 2017.

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