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Monday, March 7, 2011

Spring Break Retro!

I'm on Spring break this week so I have my evenings free. Since Mr. Bell patented the telephone today in 1876, here are a couple.

Way back when (the seventies), telephone customers increasingly chose to buy and install phones not manufactured by Western Electric, the manufacturing arm of the Bell System. So the Bell System came up with the "Design Line" series of telephones that customers could purchase. Not really though. Early phones came with this disclaimer: "The telephone housing is your property. To assure quality of service, all working parts, e.g., dial, cords, and electrical components remain the property and responsibility of the Bell Telephone Company." Western simply stuck the working components of existing Bell telephones into contracted housings. Customers still had to pay rent on the guts. Finally around 1980, customers were allowed to own the phone outright. These sets were marked "CS" to denote that distinction. In 1986 manufacturing was moved out of the US.

This sort of thing simply marched to its death starting in the late eighties:


Here is a 1976 version of the Micky Mouse phone:

Sports an original Bell issued number card with the 219 area code. Indiana.

This was a standard Model 2500 desk phone with a Micky Mouse housing (insert joke here).

The Bell 2500 above.

So at about at the end of it and here is an example:

A Trimline phone totally encased in a Micky Mouse housing. I added the Southern Bell service award and a commemorative centennial paperweight to the picture.

I hope to spend some time here this week, but I do have laundry to do in prep for my vacation!


  1. Just like the disclaimers for downloaded mp3s and Kindle content. "We own what you just bought."

  2. I recall that one of the Bells were just recently caught charging elderly customers to rent a phone at a rate higher than they could buy one at.

  3. @ North- exactly!

    @ Brooke- I guarantee that they are still doing it right now!

  4. I know that you know about the Western Electric and Bell Labs to Lucent progression, and you might know that Alcatel bought Lucent last year. Amazingly enough, synergy seems to work. Lucent and Alcatel were both headed for the dumpster. The merger seems to have brought them back from the dead. They just announced the "rubik's cube" cell phone antenna. It will revolutionize the industry. Amazing.

  5. @ sbrenneis- First you tell me merging with a French company made stuff better, THEN you throw out marketing buzz words like "synergy".

    So do you have to figure the puzzle out before you can make a call?

  6. Hehehe.

    I should have put quotes around synergy to give it that slightly sarcastic slant. Believe me, I was as amazed as you about Alcatel. I figured that when they merged, the company would reach loser critical mass and melt down into a pile of chapter 11 slag. To be clear, 90% of what they do is still crap. We wouldn't touch an Alcatel switch with a 10 foot pole.

    Here's a link to an article on the cell antenna: