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Joe, the senior developer in a team of six, has a problem with his program. He studies it for hours, with increasing frustration, but cannot figure out the source of the bug. He wouldn’t think of asking any of his peers to help because they all have less experience than he does. Finally, though, he is at wits’ end and gives up. Sighing, he picks up his phone and touches an extension: “Sandra, could you come over here and take a look at my program? I’ve got a problem I can’t figure out.” Sandra stops by and, with the quickest glance at Joe’s program, points out what should have been obvious to him long ago. Hurray! The program is fixed, and Joe expresses gratitude, but in fact he is secretly embarrassed.

What does touch an extension mean?

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An extension (sense 3.1) is the local number you call when you call a business and dial an extra number to get straight to a particular phone on the business’s network (for example).

On a traditional telephone, where numbers where input on a dial, Joe would have dialled the extension to Sandra’s phone. This is, I presume, a fairly new text where things work as today, and telephone numbers are more commonly pressed on a keypad, or even touched on a pressure-sensitive surface (like on a smartphone).

It is not particularly common yet, though, to actually say that you touch a number on a touch screen—the most common verb is still dial, even though there is no rotary dial on the phone.

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  • Many standard office phones have dedicated buttons for the extensions that are called regularly, such as secretaries or colleagues. In the recent past, there were PBX (private branch extension) phones that routed these extensions on an internal server.
    – bib
    Commented Mar 31, 2014 at 2:10
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I believe it's a reference to the feature of an office phone by which you can connect to someone in the same office by pressing a single button, called an "extension". It might have been better to say "presses an extension".

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I don't think that "touches an extension" necessarily means a single touch nor the process of touching itself. (Most extensions use two to four numbers.) Rather "touches an extension" is synonymous with "dials..." or "calls an extension".

Sighing, he picks up his phone and dials an extension:...

Sighing, he picks up his phone and calls an extension:...

Since the author says "phone" he need not be so literal. Perhaps he was wrong.

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