Thursday, October 26, 2006


Yes, it is a telephone. More particularly, it is a vintage Western Electric telephone, the kind you used to lease from Ma Bell back in the old monopoly days. It is nearly indestructible, the sound quality is great and it rings. It does not beep, buzz, squeak, play hip hop or chatter at you like a mini smoke alarm. There is an actual bell inside and it rings. Some days a small thing is all it takes to make me happy.

22 comments:

Huw Raphael said...

well, it is one of those modernist brown ones rather than the orthodox all-black ones

John said...

Huw,

Color is a red herring. The true orthodox phone has a dial and is wired directly to the wall in defiance of the pan-heresy of "modularism."

Tom Atkins said...

I'm a big fan of "older" technology, for just the reasons you mentioned! Solid quality and less glitz.

Tom

Rick Hanson said...

My favorite property of this type of phone is that, when the receiver is resting in the cradle (as in your picture), one can strike the cord end of the receiver with the side of the palm of the hand, on a down-motion of the arm, with such force that the receiver pops into mid-air; then on the up motion of the arm, catch the flying receiver with the hand. :-)

For more fun see:
Western Electric Telephones,
Play Mary had a Little Lamb on the phone,
Pick up the phone like men

Venomous Kate said...

They have a hidden benefit, too. Thanks to the cord that tethers the owner to the wall, callers are not subjected to listening while the owner uses the bathroom, as is becoming all too common with those new-fangled cell-you-lar thingies.

Anonymous said...

What are those button things? My phones have holes for the fingertips, dialing is much easier that way. How do you dial the one you have pictured?

Anonymous said...

The best phone of all was the coin operated rotary payphone that produced a different sound (bell) for each coin dropped into it. There'a a Bar in Norwalk Ct that still has one, and it's inside the original wooden phone booth with the louvered door and fan and light that go on when you close the door.

Anonymous said...

Western Electric built a satellite once. It was supposed to work until it passed Mars. When it passed Pluto it was still transmitting. They say that on a clear night at JPL, if you know what frequency to tune, you can still hear it, halfway to Alpha Centauri. When the aliens land, and ask to talk to the guys who built that--what will we tell them?

Techno Grouch said...

I think this one trumps all of you - and I still use it when I'm not running the embroidery machine and need my hands free.

Sounds great (though the audio gain is lower than on my wireless w/headset) and the folks I talk to say it sounds clear as a Bell.

If I'm not mistaken, the transistor was invented by folks at either Western Electric or Bell Labs.

Richard Fagin said...

All that is missing from your phone, Prof. Reynolds, is a DIAL! God help you with voicemail if you actually had a dial, though.

Teresa said...

I will say ping!. I just had to post on this because I know there are more than a few people out there with the old phones.

I didn't put in my post that we still own an old dial type W.E. phone with a jack that we used for quite a while because phone rates were cheaper for dial phones. LOL. It's now boxed up somewhere, but we still have it. Ah the memories.

Ric Locke said...

I probably still have one or two of those around. I should go dig them out of storage.

My favorite feature: If you take it apart, you will discover that there aren't individual switches for each button. Instead there are cams, and one contact for each row and column.

You can disassemble the keypad, exchange the 1-row for the 7-row, and clip the (welded!) connections for the row switches and swap those. The result is a telephone with a keypad matching a standard 10-key, like the number pad on your computer keyboard.

I've done it several times, for myself and others. Wonder how many data entry clerks have been raped or robbed because they dialed 377 instead of 911?

Regards,
Ric

Anonymous said...

Am I the only hearing Ironside yell "Mark!" ?

Miles said...

I have a pair of later-generation Trimlines (with the green LED illuminated touch-tone pads) and you will take them from me when you pry them from my cold, dead fingers.

Sarah said...

I have almost that exact phone (I believe it was manufactured in 1984; it's been with my parents since I was too small to notice such things) sitting right by my ear. The only trouble is that there really is a bell inside -- I have to unplug the phone altogether if I don't want to hear it.

But I still miss Grandma's rotary dial. Now that was a phone that made you feel like you were, I don't know, dialing a number.

Anonymous said...

I am an electrical engineer in my 40's and I have had a trimline phone for the last 30+ years. It is a thing of beauty. Among the things I like: mechanical stops on the pushbuttons that keep them from being damaged no matter how hard you mash them; the tone oscillator uses a single transistor to produce 2 tones at a time - wonderfully elegant circuit!

Anonymous said...

Another good thing with these phones is that when you are pissed at somebody on the other end, you can slam the hell out of the receiver.

Try that with some little portable electronic job. All you can do is beep a button. No satisfaction.

Anonymous said...

I miss the real by-God Bakelite phones of my childhood. When I was small, the receiver was so heavy I had to use two hands to hold it! The bell ringer was loud enough to wake the dead. It was a phone that said, "Dial, answer, or get out of my way!"

Oh, and it came in one color: black. Kind of sinister looking as it lurked on the end table.

Anonymous said...

Somebody said:
"Western Electric built a satellite once. It was supposed to work until it passed Mars. When it passed Pluto it was still transmitting. They say that on a clear night at JPL, if you know what frequency to tune, you can still hear it, halfway to Alpha Centauri. When the aliens land, and ask to talk to the guys who built that--what will we tell them?"

Tell them to come on over to Lucent, we're still here.

Ahumado said...

It's technically called a Western Electric (Or Bell) 2500 set. Its rotary predecessor was the 1500 set. I still have a 2500. During the Huricane Rita-induced power outage I pulled it out of storage as our fancy digital wireless system wasn't working. It worked fine. The first time it rang, the kids freaked out.

Mike said...

I still have, and use, my rotary model. I love it, and I expect it to outlast me. It's also entertaining. Watching my girlfriend's daughter try to figure out how to use it was priceless. And yes, the audio quality is much better than the stuff they make nowadays.

Ahumado said...

And another thing - I believe these were only available (ultimately) in black, deep red, 60's formica kitchen green (there may have been a yellow, not sure) and this one, office beige. IIRC, beige was the most common. Another thing about the handset was that you could pretty easily crook your neck and lock it between your shoulder and ear so you had two hands free to keep on working. This led to chiro problems so Ma Bell came out with an attachment with appropriate contours to make this better. Actually, I think someone else came out with that first but they got court-ordered to cease and desist. Ma Bell was funny like that pre-'84. MCI changed all that. I knew my "History of Telecomm" course would come in handy one day.