Our History Page is always under construction, but there's a bunch of really interesting stuff here!
Be sure to look at the BECO catalogs we've got below, which are a history lesson in themselves!
Click on the hard working guys on the right...
This boy is standing on a pole with
many "Open Wire" phone lines (not too smart). Poles would
feed out in all directions from a town's Central
Our site has lots of
ads and pictures... Most from old telephone trade magazines. We also
have some technical information for you, and some neat items for
You can click on most of the pictures on this
page to see a larger version. If you have pictures that you'd like to
see on our site, e-mail Mike Sandman at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we'll try to
get them on and credit them to you.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If the text is too small to read easily, you can make it bigger (or smaller) by holding down the CONTROL key, and rolling the wheel on your mouse (while holding CONTROL down). Release the CONTROL key to scroll up and down the page. This works on any web page with text (not graphics).
If you don't have a wheel on your mouse, you can click on VIEW in the menu at the top of your browser, then TEXT SIZE, and then LARGEST/SMALLEST (or INCREASE/DECREASE in Firefox).
OLD PHONE ACCESSORIES
This is my favorite section, since it shows how ingenious some of the pioneers of the phone business were!
The Beginning of the end of the Bell System... The Hush-A-Phone was a simple product that slipped over a Candlestick Phone or Telephone Handset and gave the user some privacy (the first noise canceling microphone!). There were no electrical connections, it just slipped onto the phone. It had been advertised and sold in trade magazines for years. An AT&T lawyer just happened to see one in a shop window on his way to lunch one day, and decided that it was his job to stop the sale of this device since it was being attached to the Phone Company's property. AT&T had previously won many court cases against companies who sold advertising trinkets (premiums) that slipped over or otherwise attached to their phones. These trinkets had phone numbers for the local coal company, funeral parlor and general store, but you couldn't attach those numbers to your phone since the phone wasn't yours.
The Hush-A-Phone Decision was a big win over
AT&T in the US Court of Appeals, in 1956. It allowed the Hush-A-Phone (and every other similar device) to be stuck to AT&T's phones.
More than a decade
after the Hush-A-Phone Decision,
Tom Carter won a decision against AT&T
that allowed anybody to connect anything to AT&T's telephone network,
if they used an AT&T
"Protective Coupler." That was the
Carterfone Decision, in 1968.
Tom Carter fought the battle with AT&T which led to today's total
deregulation (well, just about) of telephone equipment in the US. As a matter of
fact, the PTTs in just about every country in the world (a PTT is the FCC of
other countries) followed the US lead of deregulating their telephone network
after seeing the benefits US citizens saw when they were able to connect
whatever they needed to the telephone network, both voice and data. Without that
deregulation, it's possible the Internet would have stayed a network used by the
government and large corporations, since the Phone Company would have surely
made the price of data service, even slow modems, beyond the reach of most of
I mentioned to Helen Carter (Mrs. Tom Carter) that I didn't know how
they stood up to AT&T, a company who specialized in crushing other
companies. She replied:
"A few years before Tom's death
in 1991, Harry Newton called me and said "Quick Helen....what would you put
on Tom's tombstone"...so I responded quickly with "Here lies a
stubborn Texan". That's the secret of how he did what he did."
Helen Carter also said:
"Tom's earliest prediction
(about 1970) was that someday "voice and data will merge". So many
people just laughed at that."
After the Carterfone
Decision, up until the FCC started allowing connection of FCC registered equipment in
1976 (that you could buy in a local store), subscribers had to rent a protective coupler from the phone company (maybe $10 a month per line), which supposedly protected the public telephone network from any harm caused by the
customer's phone equipment (CPE).
From my own experience, these
protective couplers were very unreliable. They often left phone lines dead because they were
defective, or the card cage they went into was defective (the cards and card
slots had dissimilar metals, which caused oxidation and intermittent operation). The Phone Company didn't care, and didn't
try to fix them very hard. They
figured eventually the subscriber would get tired of dealing with the problems and go back to renting from them.
I guess they were wrong.
I have to say that as
an Interconnect phone man I made a lot of money going around checking dead line
complaints. Probably 95% of the dead line service calls on phone systems are not
the phone equipment, but a problem with the phone line coming into the building.
It was that way before the Carterfone Decision, and it's that way
The CarterFone itself was a device that patched phone calls into 2-Way Radio equipment.
It didn't actually wire
into a phone or the telephone network. It had an acoustic coupler
for a standard handset.
If you have an ad for a
CarterFone let me know and I'll put it on our page and attribute it to you.
Here's a picture of an
original CarterFone (click on it to see a bigger version):
Jon Giberson's original CarterFone that
sits on the credenza in his office.
Jon is from Connections, a company specializing
in call accounting.
The plaque under the glass says:
The Original "Carterfone"
This original Carterfone, manufactured
by Carter Electronics in 1959, served a need for mobile radio users to
interconnect with the public telephone network. Use of the Carterfone was
challenged by the telephone companies in 1966, and a lengthy struggle began that
ultimately let to the Federal Communications Commission.
On June 26, 1968, the FCC handed down
the landmark Carterfone Decision. The resolution of Tom Carter's struggle
for acceptance of the concept of Interconnection permitted the creation of a
multi-billion dollar industry that today serves all areas of communications
needs data, voice, message. The historic Carterfone Decision allowed an open,
competitive market to exist for communications equipment and facilities to the
benefit of the communications user.
This original Carterfone is one of the
few remaining devices in existence, and has been preserved to commemorate the
historic legal milestone it represents.
Rudolph Wratten wrote in and said he has a different model
CarterFone. He says his is an acoustic coupler with a twist, a bar that both opens the line and dials the number. A standard 500 set is placed in a tray, and a bar goes over the switchhook cradle. The mobile user had a telephone dial that pulsed a tone, this pulsed the bar and thus dialed the number. The radios were half-duplex, this is to say, you could talk or listen, one or the other. In San Antonio, the
CarterFones were marketed by a General Electric radio dealer, Industrial Radio.
Here are some scans James Francis
sent of the CarterFone 1969 Second Annual Report (click
to see a bigger version):
The middle page includes a picture of an IMTS typephone
sitting on the "hump" by the front seat of a Cadillac... in 1969. The IMTS
phone was similar to the first mobile phone, which was the MTS (Mobile
Telephone Service), offered by Phone Companies. IMTS was the
"Improved Mobile Telephone Service." There were also Radio
Common Carriers (private companies) who offered the same type of service through
their own radio channels (granted to them by the FCC). Actually, I think the
phone on the hump is an RCC version of the IMTS, because I don't see the
Bell logo on the front. RCCs usually also
offered pager (beeper) service, before the Phone Companies got into it..
In the '60s through the '70's an acoustic coupler was often used
for data (usually 110 baud, per Ed Cummings), by placing a regular telephone's handset into
rubber cups (the acoustic coupler). Beeps from the other end of the line would
be changed into serial data going into some kind of computer. Serial data from
the local computer was changed into beeps and transmitted to the other end of
the line. Since the data was just audio (beeps, kind of like Morse Code), there
were no extra exorbitant charges for data use from the Phone Company, and there
was no equipment to rent since there was no wired connection to the phone line
(thanks to Tom Carter, and the Carterfone decision).
A Data Modem CarterFone is a logical extension of the original
used the acoustic coupler to patch voice from a phone call into a two-way radio
A drawback to the MTS and IMTS systems was that they used only
12 or 24 radio channels for a whole metropolitan area. That's 12 or 24
conversations at a time. Talk about frustration... and expense. The phones were
thousands of dollars, it had a steep monthly charge, a very high per minute
charge (could be over $1.00 a minute - notice the key lock on the face of the
IMTS phone!), and even then you might have waited an hour or more for a free
channel to make a call!
Modern cellular systems still use a limited number of radio
channels. Rather than a single channel covering a whole metropolitan area, the
channel might only serve a few block area, allowing 24 conversations at a time
within a few blocks - not a whole big city! The 24
channels are then reused on the next few block area, and so on (that's where the
term "cellular" came from).
The first pager service I saw was in the late 60's, from Roger's
Radio (an RCC) in Chicago. Very popular with doctors. It was a tiny radio
receiver with a really tiny speaker. When you wanted to page someone, you'd call
the RCC (Roger's) operator, who would add that pager number to the queue of other
people being paged.
There were no beeps with this baby. The operator simply read the
list of pager numbers into a recorder every fifteen minutes or so. The recorder
was an endless loop that would keep repeating the operator's recording. The
recorder simply played the audio back into the radio transmitter, which covered
a good part of the Chicago area (from an antenna on a tall building downtown).
To see if you were being paged, you'd remove the pager from your belt, and push
and hold a small button on the pager while holding the tiny speaker to your ear.
You'd listen through the recording to see if your number was there. If it
wasn't, you could stay at the bar a little longer?
Not long after that, the Motorola Pageboy Pager took the country
(and doctors) by storm by always automatically listening for specific tones being broadcast on
the radio channel, and literally "beeping" to alert the user when
those tones were heard.
The Phone Company had to make "ring voltage," normally 90VAC at 20 cycles, using special Ringing Voltage Generators.
A regular electric motor
drove a magneto (similar to the ones that were cranked by hand
on phones), to provide ringing voltage. The electric motor normally ran from 48VDC, since large banks of batteries were used to provide "talk battery." These batteries were charged by commercial power, so if the commercial power went out phones would still work (until the batteries went dead).
Separate generators would produce ring voltage at special frequencies (cycles) for party line service, where the bells would only ring at a particular frequency.
There's only one company in the US with the
and honesty to help you with your antique and reproduction phone needs...
Call to get your copy of
their unbelievable full
With over 30 years of experience, they can help
you! Whether it's original or reproduction parts, a repair, a single old
phone, a novelty phone, or even a set of crank phones to make your own intercom
between your house and garage, they're the ones to call.
in Galesville, Wisconsin, PHONECO is a family business located in a four
story building packed with phones and parts, providing full refurbishing and FCC
authorized repair facilities. They've also got many trailers stuffed with old
telephones and equipment. Their downtown Galesville building is a piece of
history itself, with the basement level being an old livery where carriages
would drive into the building.
Ron and Mary Knappen,
the owners, are internationally known antique telephone experts. They've
actually "written the books" on antique phone collecting, pay
phone collecting, and phone company histories... including huge multi-volume
sets that are the core of the knowledge of today's antique phone collectors.
WHEN WERE 2, 3, 4 or 5 DIGIT PHONE NUMBERS USED?
was it made?
found a great antique, and it has an old phone number on it.
figure that if you can find out when 3 digit phone numbers were used,
you'll know when the antique was made... Right?
Every Phone Company, different cities at the same Phone Company, and even different exchanges in the same city from the same Phone Company converted their Central Office (CO) equipment at different times.
They may have gone right from 2
digit numbers to 7 digit numbers, or they may have gone from 2 to 3, to 5,
to 7 digit numbers over 50+ years. The only way to know is to find someone
still alive in that specific city who has a
really good memory, find some other documentation where you might be able
to figure it out, or ask the Phone Company's historian.
The historian used to be the best
option, except that most of the Phone Companies have closed their museums
and fired their historians. The guys who run phone companies today (we're
almost back to a monopoly) really don't care about the history of the
phone business. Before they worked for the phone company they may have run
a bakery or steel mill. They don't care about the phone business any more
than they care about who picks up the garbage for the company.
Sorry, but it's going to be very
difficult to find out when a particular city went to a particular type of
dialing... without a time machine.
NOTE: Irwin Schuster from Tampa says that if you know the city and state that the phone number was located, and you have access to local newspaper files (and lots of spare time), the ads should tell you what year that item was made within a very small range.
This is a neat old 17 minute AT&T Video from 1961 when the Phone Company went from Letters and Numbers to All Number Calling (which took quite a few years to make it through all the Phone Companies in the country):
A very convenient device for attaching a lineman's test set to wires can be made from a piece of No. 10 copper wire. The form of the device is very clearly shown in the accompanying illustration.
Each snap is made from a piece of wire 12 in. long, which has been twisted twice around a 5/8-in. bolt, after which the ends are twisted together and the bolt slipped out of the ring. After forming the clip in this fashion, the twisted ends can be soldered to electric light drop cord, the joint taped and the attachment made to a magneto test set of the type ordinarily used for testing line trouble.
In addition to its durability, the writer has found that this type of clip is in some respects a great deal more convenient to rise than the "suspender clip" frequently furnished with the
test sets for making attachment to wires. A small snap with saw-tooth jaws frequently catches when the lineman is climbing between the wires, or when being removed from the line, and
causes annoyance. It will be readily seen that the home-made clip will not catch on anything, and it is very much more easily put on and removed. The strength of the attachment is shown in the rough test indicated under the conditions prevailing when the accompanying photograph was taken. A test set weighing 22 1/2 oz. is suspended directly from the clip and easily sustained. This shows, in addition to the security of the connection, that a good electrical contact is obtained with the wires to be tested. However, one of the advantages in this clip is that a good pull will release it. The usefulness of this will be appreciated when it is considered that in most cases a lineman will fasten his clip to the wire to be tested and then retire to a convenient place on the pole to wait until he can finish the test with the wire chief. With this type of fastener,
when the test is finished, it is unnecessary for him to go hack within reaching distance of the wires in order to detach the set, as a gentle pull on the drop cord will release the snaps.
The Kickmeter (Pointmeter) was the primary cable test set for I/R (Installation/Repair) Technicians for many years. At many Phone Companies, it's been replaced by an electronic tester, called the Sidekick.
Click here to see a 1941 manual for the Kickmeter. If you can't read it because it's too small in IE, click on the bottom of the graphic, and then click on the little gray and orange box which will make it bigger. To save it, right click and choose "Save Target As" to save it to your hard drive.
An experienced phone man can determine the distance to faults on a dry pair (with no battery) by simply flipping the reversing switch a few times, and reading how far the needle "kicks" on this rather simple (but rugged) volt-ohmmeter.
Dimensions: 2 5/8" x 3 1/2" x 15/16" thick.
This battery was used in a number of Western Electric testers, including the famous Kick Meter (Point Meter).
They are now discontinued...
We do have a Conversion Kit that lets you use regular 9V batteries in place of the original 45V battery, if you don't mind your Kick Meter not being 100% original (see below).
Oversized replacement Belt Snap Hook, as used on many modern Butt-Sets (not all). We can't tell you which ones this will fit.
Attaches with two screws (included), and swivels on base plate.
Replaces smaller Snap Hooks too. The larger size snaps over most 'D Rings', and just about anything else you'll find in a phone room!
Part Number: TOO7L Price: $8.50
BENT-NOSE BUTT-SET CLIP WITH NAILS and SPIKE
Bent-Nose Butt-Set Clip with Nails / Spike
This is the standard Butt-Set Clip.
The Bent Nose allows the Clips to be used on a 66 Block without shorting together.
The Bed-of-Nails allows the tech to simply clip to the wire
to make contact without stripping the wire.
The Spike is used to connect to aerial drop wire by going through the heavy insulation to the wire.
It's no longer recommended that you use the Nails or Spike on wire that's used outside, that can get wet. Although the holes are self sealing they won't keep water from getting to the copper conductor.
You can learn an awful lot about the telephone business from these two catalogs, from 1968 and 1977.
"Bones" Bohnsack started what is now called the Beco Equipment Co.,
which refurbishes and sells used telephone equipment, in 1954.
His catalogs were
chock full of neat telecom stuff. He developed unique telecom products
that were used by phone companies all over the world.
The end of World
War II gave Beco an opportunity to sell lots of surplus, some of
which was sold directly to consumers in magazines (phones, old phones
made into lamps, etc.).
sells and refurbishes telecom equipment worldwide, run by Warren's son
Warren Bohnsack's father owned the Germantown
Telephone Company in New York, where he learned the telephone business. After
deciding he was a much better salesman than a phone man, he left the operating
company where his mother and sister operated the magneto switchboard, and his
brother handled the inside and outside plant. His family still runs the phone
The wholesale prices in these catalogs are very
entertaining! The first catalog (below) is full of refurbished phone equipment
that is very useful as an aid to identifying old phone equipment. It even has
old 1A1(wire spring) key telephone equipment, and conversions from old WE 302
and Stromberg-Carlson 1543 sets to "modern looking" 500 sets.
In the second catalog (their 30th Anniversary
Edition) you'll see some very interesting pictures of young ladies
along with lots of telephone equipment. The picture of "Ma Bell"
is not what we think of today, with telephones strategically placed around her
(cover and page 17). A great way to sell stuff to phone men, but it wouldn't
work today (it's not politically correct). I've wanted to do it in our catalog
for years, but Donna has threatened me with great bodily harm to important parts
if I did.
Beco's best known product is their 1011
Rubber Butt-Set. They bought the rights to the Rubber Butt-set and the 81A
Test Set (predecessor to the electronic toner) from Western Electric. They
updated the Butt-set to use a standard size rotary dial, instead of the little
one that required a pencil or small fingers to dial (but I loved that
Butt-set!), put a better "Talk/Monitor" switch in the unit, and
put in a modern T-1 transmitter and U-1 receiver. That Butt-set is the most
rugged ever developed, and is still in use today around the world! They
replaced the rotary dial with a touch tone pad in their tone model, still in the
same round shape.
The first catalog shows the 1011 with a
Western Electric dial, and a mouthpiece area that's exactly like the original WE
set. The second catalog shows a redesigned model with a larger rubber
mouthpiece, and an AE dial. It also shows the 81A Test Set (buzzer), which
faded into obscurity as soon as electronic phone systems started appearing. The
buzzer in the 81A is easily heard when tracing wires, but it was soon learned
that the large spikes created by the buzzer destroyed electronic phone
equipment. If you have an 81A Test Set, don't even
think about using it!
The second catalog also shows the
mid-70's line of Stromberg-Carlson phones. I particularly liked their 1800 sets
that looked just like the WE Call Director, but was available in a six button
version. I loved them because they made it easy for me to compete with Illinois
Bell, who could only supply traditional looking 2564 six button desk sets. They
were pretty reasonably priced, too.
NOTE: BECO is out of business. These are genuine antique catalogs from 30 or 40 years ago, so unless you have a time machine you aren't going to be able to buy this stuff for the prices listed!
If you really want something you see in one of these catalogs, your best bet is to call Mary at 608-582-4124. She might have it for sale, or know where you can get it.
Switchboards were originally located at
telephone company Central Offices, and were used to connect subscribers together
so they could talk.
When businesses began installing multiple phones within
their buildings, an on-site switchboard was used to connect a particular phone
to an outside line. The switchboard also provided an intercom, where the
operator would connect one phone to another in a different part of the building.
These were the first PBXs (Private Branch Exchange).
Some companies installed a
separate PAX (Private Area Exchange), which was an automatic intercom between
employees using various types of dials or push-buttons. Not all locations in a
business would have both types of phones on the desk, since few employees would
need to talk to people outside their company in those days. While a PAX could be
purchased by a business, a PBX and the telephones connected to it would normally
be rented (costing quite a bit over the years!).
Later, PBXs allowed users to dial
both between phones and onto the CO lines.
When there were multiple positions that weren't covered by operators (like at night), an operator could use a plug from her switchboard in a jack of one on either side. The plugs, combined with their associated switches, were what actually rang and connected telephones (the jacks). An operator could connect a phone with another phone, or a trunk that went to another office (also a jack).
Phone company operators often had to keep track of the charges for the calls she connected, using a timer device called a Calculagraph.
Interesting Switchboard with only two
positions with cords, but a third position with jacks for subscribers on
the far right (used by right set of cords). Test Desk with meter is
hanging on the
left side of the Switchboard. Picture courtesy of Dave Cherry,
Click for a bigger photo of the really old
Magneto Test Desk. Note that the two
chains hanging down are not
from the Test Desk.
Click for a bigger photo of the
Weston Voltmeter on the Magneto
Test Desk. Some markings are barely
visible above some of the buttons.
Western Electric Magneto Test Desk photo courtesy of Dave
Cherry, Cincinnati, OH
Click for a bigger photo of the Drops
for incoming calls instead of a lamp), and connections on the Magneto
These types of lamps are usually recessed into a hole, and you just can't quite grab them with a long nose pliers (it slips off). This is the traditional answer, with the original wooden handle.
Part Number: TOO7C Price: $13.99
There have been a ton of models and
styles of phones through the years! I'm going to try to show you some of the more
interesting ones I've been able to get pictures of.
The pictures at the left are Touch Tone (DTMF) dials!
Click on them to see a bigger picture of the unique dial.
Western Electric experimented for quite a while before coming up with the
familiar 3 across and four down dial we use today. There is actually a
fourth column to the left on some phones - known as A, B, C and D. These have
been used on special phones in the past, including the US Military's Autovon
The top picture is a prototype Model 300 set from the 1950's with
10 buttons, laid out in two rows.
The next one down shows a Western Electric
Test Desk, with 10 buttons laid out in two columns going down from the same time period. This dial was
added after the Test Desk was originally put into service. Myron Butler (from CMC) says this was probably an MF (Multi-Frequency) dial rather than a DTMF (Dual Tone Multi Frequency) dial. MF was used to communicate between switches in the old AT&T Long Distance Network.
On prototypes, the dials were round white buttons with black letters and numbers. They were screwed onto posts, and locked in place with a nut so they could be placed horizontally or vertically. When Western Electric Touch Tone phones were finally introduced, they had the familiar gray buttons with white lettering. Some other manufacturers stayed with the white buttons.
Everybody went with square buttons in the 3 by 4 grid layout.
The picture of the yellow phone is a prototype, modified 500
set, with a 10 button dial inserted into an adapter taking the place of the
rotary dial. This same adapter (with 12 buttons) was used on the larger style
554 wall phones for some time, although the 2554 Mini-Wall Phone was much more
12 Button dials with * and # keys for
special services came out rather quickly after the introduction of Touch Tone
Service in 1963, and the 10 button dial was discontinued.
Talking about prototypes, the bottom picture is what I think is the neatest phone I've seen come out of Western Electric... the
It's a prototype that was only used for a short time in New Brunswick, NJ.
It came out about the same time as the TV show "Get Smart," and it
sure looks like Maxwell Smart's Shoe Phone. This prototype eventually became the
very popular Trimline set.
Click the picture for a bunch of neat old videos from the AT&T Archive on YouTube (opens in a new tab):
For decades, the world has been trying to find a way to
remove the yellowing of plastic, caused by UV light.
UV light from both the sun and fluorescent office
lights will eventually turn any light colored plastic yellow, including plastics
made with UV inhibitors. If too much UV inhibitor is mixed in with the plastic,
the plastic gets brittle and breaks easily.
This is a real problem for light colored antique
phones and computers, since few people want to display the ugly yellowed plastic
in their collection of neat stuff.
The yellowing is generally only on the vary top
layer of the plastic - it's seldom if ever yellowed all the way through.
The first method for getting rid of the yellowing
on plastic was to use a buffing wheel to remove the top layer of plastic. That's
possible on a phone with smooth (shiny) plastic, but it won't work on textured
or flat plastics. It's also very labor intensive because you have
to buff off the plastic in all the grooves and edges, which can be difficult to
The plastic can also be sanded down with sand
paper until the yellowing is gone, instead of using a buffing wheel with an
Note that a regular grinder that spins at 3600
rpm will destroy just about any plastic, because of the heat that builds up as
you press the plastic against the buffing wheel. A real buffing wheel spins at
1800 RPM, and even then you have to keep the part moving - and not press too
hard to prevent the plastic surface from being burned (you can destroy a
perfectly nice antique very quickly with a buffing wheel!).
After the top layer of yellowed plastic is buffed
or sanded off, the plastic has to be polished with a buffing wheel
with a polishing compound, so it's shiny. Again, this is impossible if the phone
or computer has textured surfaces.
For business phones, painting quickly became the
method of choice to remove the yellowing, and sell the phone as refurbished.
There are some good painters, and some very bad painters. They use good paint,
and very bad paint. Drips, runs and dust in the paint is common with the bad
painters (I've picked up a painted handset that felt like sand paper there was
so much dust on it). Maybe not a big deal for a desk phone in an office, but a
bad choice for an antique.
In the 90's, there was a company who dipped the
yellowed plastic in a solution to remove the yellowing (the phone had to be
completely disassembled). Apparently it worked sometimes, but the company went
out of business.
Recently, some geeks who understand chemistry
came up with a chemical mix they call Retr0bright.
It's not a commercial cleaner you can buy. It's a formula for a mixture you can
put together yourself to remove the yellowing from your own stuff... if you're
really brave and careful (these chemicals could easily disfigure you, or worse).
pictures at the left and above show computer cases before and after treatment.
This is actually very amazing. Of course, as soon as you remove the yellowing the UV light we all live in will start yellowing it again (unless you keep it in the dark?).
beginning... There was the Bell System, an organization of phone companies with the same
owner. There were also the Independents, who were all of the other phone companies owned by anyone
else (who teamed up to compete with the Bell System).
The rivalry included
"long distance" lines between phone companies, which carried traffic
between cities. In the beginning, you couldn't even call someone who was a
subscriber in the competing system, since the lines didn't connect anywhere.
There was pretty fierce
fighting between these groups for many years. Bell eventually won, buying up most of the
Independents after beating them into submission.
The Bell System owned Western
Electric, which manufactured or sourced most of the popular stuff used by
the Bell System. There were many manufacturers competing for the Independent's
business, as well as trying to sell to the Bell System. You'll see ads for a lot of those
companies throughout this page.
Telephone, a video that we sell (further down the page), does a great
job of explaining the development of the telephone and the Bell System - and how
they beat the Independents. It's well worth watching, and not very expensive.
on the interesting patch on the left! It was sold by an
organization called TAP in the 1970's. It was made to look exactly like
the patch then worn on the jackets of Bell System employees throughout the
country (the jackets with the racing stripes). Members of TAP were really
the first "hackers," primarily concentrating on making free phone
calls through "The Phone
Company." They were based in New York. Members of TAP
'invented' the various colored boxes which allowed free calls. Some
of them also did jail time, since 'Ma Bell' wasn't too happy with them - and she
had a lot of pull with the authorities!
payphones had an attendant who collected the money and placed the calls. The
phones were often in very fancy large booths.
William Gray, who is considered the "inventor" of
the payphone, started the Gray Telephone Pay Station Co. in 1891. A patent
allowed him to sell his "unattended" payphones to all of the
phone companies in the country.
He started selling
the familiar "3 Slot" payphone in 1913, which remained basically the same (many interchangeable parts) until 1965 (see ad below).
The same payphone parts were used by many different manufacturers, who
added their own handsets, transmitters, dials etc.
Gray was sold to Automatic Electric in 1948.
This is the Strangest Phone
I've Ever Seen!
Located on a Gulf Island in
British Columbia, Canada
Scanned from 2600 Magazine...
The Hacker Quarterly
This is the first thing visitors walk up to in our office!
Actual Poster distributed by AT&T to consumers in 1969. AT&T ran ads in magazines, asking for readers to write them a free copy. Even the full page ad was pretty impressive!
This fantastic Poster features pictures of 30 phones, ranging from Bell's first in 1876 to the "new" Picturephone in 1969 (which was never actually put into full production).
There is a Limited Supply of these posters, so you should buy one now if you think it would look good in your home or office. Shipped in a tube, ready for framing.
Click on the Poster to see it in more detail. Thanks to David Massey of the Tribute to the Telephone web site for the great scan of the Poster!
Part Number: CID3J Price: $24.95
Adjusting an old 500
or 2500 set to ring on lower voltages (like a VoIP device)
The old 500 and 2500 sets with
double gong ringers, and 2554 sets (mini-wall phones) with single gong
ringers, have a small bias spring to adjust the clapper on
the bell. The bias spring was normally shipped in the high
position so the bell wouldn't tap when a rotary phone was dialed or
another phone went on and off-hook - which can put out a spike
that's enough to move the clapper a little.
If you have less than
the standard 90V AC ringing and would like to make an old style
phone ring, you could try setting the bias spring to the low
position to see if it rings.
AT&T 2500 set from 1973
ITT, or Stromberg Carlson, or Comdial) 2500 Set
(Usually no REN value listed)
The 5/73 in Orange is the date it was refurbished by
Bias Spring in Low Position
Spring in High Position
Specialize in Strange Telecom Stuff!
If you need a piece of telecom
or electronic equipment manufactured, use our telecom expertise, our
existing products, our plastic enclosures, and short run manufacturing experience to help you get
your product made quickly.
It may take us as little as a
day to engineer a way to solve a strange problem, and only a short time to
put it into production... even in small quantities.
BOOK: Everything Happened Around the Switchboard
Everything Happened Around the Switchboard
by Michael R. Hathaway
Pages: 190 Soft Cover
This is really fun reading! I sure wouldn't want to do what Eldon Hathaway and his family did for over 30 years to keep the Bryant Pond Telephone Co. operating.
Setting poles, running open wire in the dead of winter, fixing and replacing old crank phones, repairing and replacing finicky old switchboards, driving and repairing finicky old telephone trucks... Makes me glad I've worked as a phone man in the city!
We don't know how good we've got it, but you can sure find out in this great book!
Part Number: CID3A Price: $19.95
BOOK: Just an Old Telephone Man
Just an Old Telephone Man
by Rufus "Judge" Pattengill
Pages: 100 Soft Cover
If you've been a phone man, this really hits home! Judge describes his career as a phone man, from his first days (including morning coffee), through his retirement.
He spent time as a Lineman, Installation/Repair, Tester, Engineer, and finally in management. He's got an incredible number of stories that would be interesting to anyone, but they're really funny and familiar to a phone man!
Well worth the read!
Part Number: CID2D Price: $15.95
CD-ROM: HISTORY OF COMPUTERS
by Mark Greenia
A History of the People and Machines that made Computing History!
A great tool for students, teachers, researchers, and anyone interested in Computer History. Covers early mechanical calculating devices, early vacuum tube computers, Giant Brains, early mainframes and minicomputers, early microcomputers and more!
Covers the following topics and more:
Early calculating machines
Early typewriters and office machines
Early electronic calculators
Historical chronology of Robotics
History of ARPA, ArpaNet, Internet
Historical Firsts in Computing
Evolution of Counting Methods
Photos of early computers and pioneers
Early Vacuum Tube Computers
Portable Electronic Calculators
Early Storage Technology
Five Generations of Computers
Early Time Sharing; Magnetic Media
Early Programming Languages
Mark Greenia put a lot of work into compiling this CD, which includes LOTS of pictures of old computer stuff!
Part Number: CID5C Price: $9.95
TIN SIGN: AT&T Long Distance
AT&T Bell System Sign
Reproduction: 8" by 8" Blue and White Porcelain
Over Tin Sign
Very thick, well made sign. Signs like this hung outside many Phone Company offices around the country for years.
For many years, there was a Fierce Fight between the Independents and Bell. Bell eventually won, pretty much buying up most of the Independents. As you can see, they both talked about their Local and Long Distance service.
Click on the Independent Badge to see a bigger version. Sorry, we don't have any Independent signs for sale.
Part Number: CID5A Price: $26.95
Need DIALTONE to use, and show off your great collection of dial phones?
You can actually USE the phones in your collection!
The PBXtra is a small, inexpensive PBX that will allow you to actually use those great looking phones! You can attach 8 Phones with their own extension numbers to the PBXtra, to call among themselves. Even more if you double up on extension numbers! Each port has around 2 REN (will ring 2 bells in standard 500 sets).
If you want to call out of your house, dedicate one or more ports to outside lines. Since all 8 ports on the PBXtra are universal, they can either be extension ports or outside lines. Lines are accessed by dialing 9. You can program incoming calls to ring at any extension you choose (or all extensions). If you have 2 outside lines, you'll have 6 extension ports to use for phones. If you have 1 outside line, you'll have 7 extension ports for phones.
The PBXtra can be set up to use rotary phones for both inside and outside dialing, so it's perfect for collectors!
NOTE: Do NOT use the PBXtra with telephones that have a crank, and/or internal batteries. Those types of phones will probably blow up the PBXtra, but can be wired together among themselves to form a little "system."
8 PORT PBX: PBXtra
PBXtra Phone System
PBXtra 8 Port Phone System
Uses Standard Analog (Single Line) Phones
8 Universal Ports (Each Port can be a Station or Trunk)
Comes Factory Configured for 6 Stations and 2 CO Lines (Loop Start Only)
Some Popular Uses:
Line Sharing for Modems (Modem Speed is Limited to 28K)
Telephone Line Simulator for Testing Telephones, Modems or Systems
Telephone Line Simulator for Demonstrating Telephone Equipment at Trade Shows
Use for Dial Tone in a shop repairing telephones, or phone systems.
When used for line sharing, put a fax on one port and all incoming calls will go to the fax, while the fax will use the next available line for outgoing calls.
I DON'T Recommend using the PBXtra as a phone system in your house or business, since modern Key Systems that have a light and button for each line, and a hold button, are MUCH Easier to Use! Even so, there are still some crackpots using this type of phone system (or Centrex) with single line phones, and they just tell you to "Call back if I cut you off while transferring you."That's a pretty impressive way to do business!
48VDC Talk battery - 90VAC 20 Cycle Ring Voltage (2 REN per station).
8 Non-Blocking Universal ports, defaults 2 by 6. DIP Switches select line or station. 8 Mod Jacks on side of cabinet.
Programs from first station port (X100), using touch tone phone.
Default Dial 9 for CO Line. Program other Trunk Groups as desired. Gives Busy Signal if all trunks busy.
Incoming calls can be programmed to ring at any station.
DISA feature answers an incoming call and allows caller to get dial tone, and dial an extension number (or trunk access code) when calling into the system. The caller must know what extension number to dial. There are no voice prompts. NOTE: Allowing DISA on a system with CO line access is dangerous, since anybody can call into your system and then dial out again.
Dial out Tone or Rotary on CO Lines. Stations can use Tone or Rotary Phones. CO Lines must be programmed for Rotary, to allow rotary phones to dial outside the system.
For 8 Conductor Mounting Cords our Black & Gray
Patch Cords work great...
replacement VoIP Phone
We make Custom Modular Line Cords with
2, 4, 6 and 8 Conductor
Flat and Round Cable
The TRUTH about Modular Telephone Cords...
You Won't Believe it!
Modular Line Cords are wired so the ends are REVERSED!
Black is on the RIGHT on the top plug, and on the LEFT on the bottom plug on the other end of the cord
Bell Labs made the decision way back when that the order of the wires in each modular connection should be reversed.
That means that the order of the pins in the mod jack on the wall is in the reverse order of the mod jack on the back of the telephone.
Why? I have no idea but the guys at Bell Labs were the smartest guys around so they must have had a reason at the time.
Flat Telephone Line Cord often has a seam running down just one side of the cord to help with the orientation of the plugs as they're installed. Sometimes the individual wires in the flat cord aren't colored at all, or there's just one colored wire.
When held with the clips down, you can see that Yellow is on the right on one end of the cord, and Black on the other.
In special applications the plugs may be put on so black or yellow is on the same side at each end. That's referred to as a Straight Through (Straight-Thru) cord (not reversed).
When Bell Labs came out with the 8 Conductor Modular Mounting Cords for the Horizon PBX (and later the Merlin) they decided to make the line cords Straight Through, notReversed.
That's carried through to today's Modular Ethernet Networking Cords:
The wires are lined up the same from left to right on both ends of an Ethernet Cable.
Brown/White is on the same side on the Mod Plugs on each end of the cord.
5 INCH SILVER SATIN LINE CORD
5 Inch Modular Silver Satin Line Cord
Standard (Reversed) Modular Cord for Wall Phones or any device requiring a Short Mod Cord.
These are the Best Handset Cords we can find! A lot of Handset Cords turn into a knotted mess very quickly.
If you don't unwind your cords once in a while, or use our Universal Handset Cord UnTwister™ which will untwist them automatically, these will also eventually turn into a knotted mess, It will just take longer.
Modular Handset Cords are wired so the ends are REVERSED!
Black is on the LEFT on the top plug, and on the RIGHT on the bottom plug on the other end of the handset cord
Bell Labs made the decision way back when that the order of the wires in each modular connection should be reversed.
That means that the order of the pins in the mod jack in the phone is in the reverse order of the mod jack on the handset. I don't know why?
Flat Telephone Handset Coiled Cord often has a seam running down just one side of the cord to help with the orientation of the plugs as they're installed. Sometimes the individual wires in the flat cord aren't colored at all, or there's just one colored wire.
When held with the clips down, you can see that Black is on the right on one end of the cord, and Red on the other.
In special applications the plugs may be put on so black or red is on the same side at each end. That's referred to as a Straight Through (Straight-Thru) cord (not reversed).
In the old days when all the phones had carbon transmitters the polarity of the handset didn't matter. Today, 99% of the phones have electret transmitters which contain a transistor so they're polarity sensitive. If you somehow get a straight-thru handset cord on a phone with an electret transmitter that needs a regular reversed handset cord, there will be 'no-transmit.'
5 INCH BLACK HANDSET CORD - STRAIGHT (Not Coiled)
5 Inch Modular Black Handset Cord
Black Standard (Reversed) Modular Handset Cord for any device requiring a Short Modular Handset Cord.
Specially made with handset sized (smaller) modular plugs, to plug into the smaller handset sized jack. This is technically called a 4P4C plug, with the jack sometimes referred to as an RJ-9 or RJ-22.
Put the spare pair from a station cable on our Handset Biscuit Jack, and send the audio to a central Voice Logger from our Handset Recording Adapter to that jack on the wall, using this Straight Handset Cord.
This cord is wired Standard (Reversed).
Using a cord with the smaller plugs prevents the phone from being plugged into the special jack for the Voice Logger, by mistake.