On the morning of Aug. 7, thousands of Ventura residents will wake up to the sound of a new dial tone.
In place of the familiar whirring hum on their telephone, there will be a louder whirring hum with a different pitch.
Pacific Bell is replacing old electronic equipment with an advanced digital switching system, affecting customers with prefixes 643, 648, 651, 652 and 653--which encompass central and west Ventura.
To prevent customers from jamming Pacific Bell's switchboard wondering if their phones were experiencing technical difficulty, Pacific Bell sent out letters to 19,000 customers explaining the change.
"We like to forewarn people," said Pacific Bell spokeswoman Kate Flynn, adding that the phone company always receives calls from curious or concerned customers when changes are made.
"Most people won't even notice the difference," Flynn said, explaining that people live in a multi-dial-tone world. Between home, office and phone booth, "We hear different tones all the time," she said.
A new tone sure to be noticed is the softer "click" for customers with call waiting. Pacific Bell's letter describes the sound as "subtle."
"It won't be as intrusive," Flynn said. "The other party often doesn't know there's been a click."
Ventura's new system will be the first in the state, Flynn said.
Its main purpose is to provide the phone company with increased capability and ability to handle the city's future growth.
An innovation that will be available immediately is call screening, a feature enabling customers to see the caller's number before answering the phone.
On Sept. 24, the new digital system will go on line for 27,000 customers whose phone numbers begin with 429, 642, 644, 654, 655, 656 and 658--comprising east Ventura and parts of Saticoy.