Obituary: John E. Karlin, Helped Define the Telephone Experience for Bell Labs

The Little Silver resident was instrumental in determining features like round buttons over square and how they should be arranged on the phone as an industrial psychologist for Bell Labs from 1945 to 1977.

John E. Karlin, 94, a Little Silver resident who helped steer telephone calls away from exchanges to all-number dialing following World War II and developed the phone keypad, died on Jan. 28, according to an article in The New York Times.

Karlin worked for Bell Labs from 1945 to 1977 as an industrial psychologist, according to the article, and was responsible for helping to develop features like the length of a phone cord, the size of its buttons once rotary dialing became a thing of the past and the format of the phone keypad.

An accomplished violinist, Karlin was a member of the board of trustees of the Red Bank Chamber Music Society and the Monmouth Conservatory of Music, according to Legacy.com. He was part of the group that founded the Hartshorne Woods Civic Association and a member of the Sea Bright Tennis Club and the Sea Bright Beach Club.

According to the Times article, Karlin’s first marriage, to Jane Daggett, ended in divorce. Survivors include his second wife, the former Susan Leigh, whom he married in 1963; a daughter from his first marriage, Bonnie Farber; three stepchildren, Christopher, Stuart and Susan Leigh, six grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren. A son from Mr. Karlin’s first marriage, Christopher Karlin, died in 1968.


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