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“Tip” and “Ring” – What Do They Mean?

You’ve Used the Terms Forever! So What Do They Mean? As long as you have been around the electronic security industry you have used the terms “Tip” and “Ring”. So what do they really mean – and why are they used? At a recent industry event, several veteran technicians were asked the question. Surprisingly few [...]

You’ve Used the Terms Forever! So What Do They Mean?

As long as you have been around the electronic security industry you have used the terms “Tip” and “Ring”. So what do they really mean – and why are they used?

At a recent industry event, several veteran technicians were asked the question. Surprisingly few knew the correct explanation, so we thought we should offer some insight for those of you who might be curious. No fair peaking now. Think about it – then click below to reveal “The Answer”.

The Answer

The terms “Tip” and “Ring” go back to the very early days of the telephone industry when phone calls were made with the assistance of “central” – the friendly telephone operator who worked in the nearby central office (could that be the early equivalent to today’s CO?).

Seated at her switchboard, the operator was notified by a light and sound indicator when you sent a signal from your telephone. In order to speak with you, she pulled a cord from amongst an array at her desk and plugged one end into the receptacle that was wired to your location. This completed the connection from your premise to the CO. Once you advised her as to which other party you were trying to reach, she pulled another similar cord from her supply and plugged it into the appropriate spot for that party. The connection was now complete.

So what was on the end of the cords she was plugging in? Each had a metal jack that looked something like this:

tip and ring wiring diagram

That’s right! “Tip” referred to the tip of the jack, and “Ring” referred to the metal ring nearby and separated from the tip by an insulator. In some cases when the same jack was used for applications other than a telephone connection, a third conductor was wired to the “Sleeve” position which was once again separated from the “Ring” by another insulator.

Furthermore, in the telephone world, “Tip” was connected to the GREEN wire in the cord, while “Ring” was connected to the RED! Does that sound familiar?

So now you know! Have a bit of fun with your colleagues around the water cooler or on your next coffee break. You will be surprised how few are as “educated” as you now are.

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Written by CSI Magazine

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