I remember past phones


I remember as a child in the 1960’s my grandparents phone. You see, they had what was called a “party line”. Not that kind of party! This type of phone line was a shared phone line between people in proximity of each other (neighbors). When you wanted to make a call, you picked up the receiver and listened. If you got a dial tone, then you were good to go. More likely, someone else was making/receiving a call and you would have to wait.

The really fun thing about party lines as a child was that you could pick up the receiver and if someone else was on the line, you could listen in to their conversation. As a pre-pubescent boy back then, this was a source of some really interesting stuff!

As tech expanded, the need for party lines decreased. My grandmother held off from switching because a party line was so much cheaper than a dedicated line. She was used to it. There came a time when the cost to the phone company for the “old” technology became so significant, that they ended that service and forced my grandmother to switch to a dedicated line.

As to the phone itself, my grandmothers followed a similar trajectory. You ever see a movie where the killer used a phone to knock someone out or kill them? Believe it. Them old rotary dial phones were heavy and quite solid. Early in the 70’s, digital phones cost a premium. Extra charges each month. By the end of that decade, the phone companies were begging people to upgrade.

I write this not so much as a trip down memory lane, but to point out to people who get upset that their “old” fees or terms of condition are unilaterally changed. There comes a time for every “thing” when the maintaining of old tech far, far exceeds the cost and benefit of upgrading. No company exist as a charity case. All companies wish to survive, and simple economics suggests that if you are costing a company more than they are receiving, they cut ties with you. No matter how long you’ve been with them. No matter how much money you’ve previously spent, or even whether they like you or not.

Like it or not, we are all involved in the business merry-go-round.

Nay-sayers can point to specific instances of promises made for “life-time” services or fees. That’s all well and good, but did you ever try to get service or money back from a bankrupt entity?

The best that we can hope for is embodied here in RW. A company that strives to improve and exhibits care and an interest in your experience. I may dream of that party line or of that rotary phone, but I’m dang sure glad that I’ve found a company that does its business prudently, while still caring for me.


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My family started off with a party line, too, when I was a kid. I think there were four houses on the party line. Each number on the line had a different ring, from one ring to four rings. Our number for the four-ring number. So, every time the phone rang, we would all sit quietly and count the rings. On the fourth ring, we would all race to the phone to be the one who answered. The change in telephone technology has come so slowly over the past 40 years, it has barely been noticeable. But, when you think about it, everything is different and the technology is light years ahead of where it was 50 years ago. Except one thing. We all still love to complain about the phone company! LOL



When I was kid our phone number was 110. The number at my dad’s store was 98. I’d pick up the phone and a lady would say “number please.” I’d say “98.” She would say “OK Bill.”



Wow! When I was born, they already had cell phones.



Well, you missed out on the fun old days of telephone. But, you’ll surely be around for the exciting technology that eventually replaces cell phones. :grinning: Back when I was a teenage, I though we would all have flying cars by now. How disappointing!



You make an excellent and informed insight @Phonehome. Thank you for sharing this point.
Another parallel to old and new is the support structure of the old rotary multi-party phone. My grandmother’s house had a little shelf perch that the phone rested on in the foyer. I. can’t remember how long the cords were, i.e. how far away from the perch the phone was taken for a conversation, but I do remember her standing there in the doorway for mostly shorter (obviously) conversations.

The new version are various forms of cases in which our phones “perch” for protection. Or not. Grandma would find it so strange to see phones in the wild, say in a canoe or on the side of a mountain, covered in mud in a Defender-style case. No doorway-leaning required.

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I was pretty young when phones made the switch to digital. This also came with the change from 7-digit phone number to having to dial 10-digits. I remember being so confused about having to enter three new number I didn’t know when calling my grandmother. If you tried to dial the 7-digit number a recording would state that you have to dial the 10-digit number now and would hang up.

I remember my mom and dad really enjoying the innovation of cordless telephones in the house. I liked the cordless phones too.

Sometimes I wonder why a company does not just make a home telephone that uses a sim card in the base and cordless phones throughout the home.

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I still remember older people raising their voices to a level just below yelling when they talked on the phone, especially for long distance calls. That was probably necessary in earlier days. My father lived into the beginning of the cell phone era, but never completely got out of that habit.

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Our house had a centrally located alcove built in the wall for the phone. Since that was the only place the phone line was my folks put a 25’ coil cord on the handset so we could sit in the living room while on the phone. Speaker phones weren’t on the market yet.

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The cordless phone systems with link2cell do what you want:

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I hate to tell you but ‘older’ people still raise their voices (perhaps because many of us can’t hear either) :thinking:



Hi @Phonehome,

Thanks for the insightful and well-written post. One of my goals is to do more to help our Community see just how true this phrase is:

There is so much that goes on in our office that exemplifies what you’ve written; day after day after day, I see examples, but we can’t always talk about the specifics of those examples. I’m glad to read that you have been able to sense that about us, even as you’re very new to our service.



Oh, the good old days.

I remember my folks being on the same party line as my grandparents. So if you wanted to call my grandparents from home, you had to dial the number, then hang up and wait for the phone to ring on our end. At that point, you answered the phone to complete the call.

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Being on the same party line as your parents? That has its advantages (or not). You know whom to contact to tell them - “don’t talk so long other people want to use the phone”

We had a party line too, but I had forgotten there were unique rings until later in life I familiarized myself with Hank Williams (died in '53). In his song “Mind your own Business”, one phrase is “The woman on my party line’s a nosy thing; she picks up her receiver when she knows it’s my ring”.

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Welcome to Republic Wireless @Phonehome and thank you for making your voice heard in our Community.

That’s one heck of a great way to start! Looks like everyone enjoyed your trip down memory lane. I mentioned the content of your post to a colleague here in the halls of Republic Wireless and after a great conversation we landed on Step-by-Step Switches. I’d never heard of them, so had to do a little digging. My colleague had maintained them at one point. At any rate, came across this great AT&T archive on YouTube that walked through how these old telephone systems worked via a Step-by-Step Switch. Thought I’d share it with you: https://youtu.be/xZePwin92cI

Thanks again for joining the Community.
I think you’ll find that if you give a little here in the forums, you’ll get a lot back in return. Welcome!



Back in the 70’s, when I worked for the Bell system, Bell Telephone Laboratories had a facility in Holmdel NJ. One of the many features of that magnificent facility was its telephone system comprised of every type of switch they had invented and manufactured, from the manual switchboard up to #5 Crossbar, the modern switch in those. Essentially a museum of switching systems it demonstrated how their new technology was always compatible with their oldest technology.

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Great Point: Which is why I’m a Republic customer. I had a Virgin Mobile account, after the previous company I was with was bought out by Virgin, giving me a Virgin Custom account. One day they just randomly shut-off my phone, but kept collecting my monthly fee, and telling me that everything was fine with my account from their end. That was a load of BS. However, they would offer me $10 and a NEW Virgin Mobile plan! Well, sure they would! Especially because every new plan they offered was more than what I paid before, thus their shutting down of my account. Yes, I complained to the FCC several/many times, to no avail. I ended up getting $20 off my Republic bills due to Sprint’s Customer Service (owner of Virgin Mobile rights in the US). Apparently this is their bribe to not get a class action suit against them by the FCC, although the FCC is a JOKE! They do ABSOLUTELY NOTHING except issue a form letter saying they were notified of an issue, and your supplier will work things out with you, or contact us again. Yeah, and then go around in circles again. Groundhog Day, with no phone service in the meantime. Oh yeah, Sprint offered to buy me a new phone too! (IF I got a new plan with Sprint or Virgin!) I already got screwed over by you guys! No thanks! Not gonna go for a second time! Typical big business!
So I will be a Republic customer until they sell out, or pull a Virgin Mobile move on me!



Hi billg
I really enjoyed this topic I guess I will show my age by saying that we had crank phones in our house an it was served by open wire lines that served the area it was at that time as a co op Every one paid so much a month for service. it went about 15 miles to The town of Orland ca then handed off to MaBell. Who had a large cats eye switch board When a call came in a eye or lid would come down an the operator would plug here cord in an put your call local or long distance through.
Later on as a co installer with the bell system Yes we installed the step Switches Line finder selectors Trunking.
What a life. Then I was lucky To get into the radio an carrier Div. Morris



Thanks for the link Ryan. As a history buff, I love watching the “old” video of tech as it was decades ago. One of my personal foibles is to watch/listen for period terms and word usage. Besides gaining an understanding of how phone tech worked back then, I noted two things from that piece.

  1. “manufactured to precision tolerances”. This was true then, and remains so today. As someone who deals daily with making parts accurate to the millionths of an inch, I can appreciate the effort and benefits of manufacturing to such exacting standards. Tight tolerances make impossible things possible.

  2. “Telephone man”. Obviously a throw back to a much different era. I appreciate it as such, but must note that as of the date of inclusion of “telephone women”, phones have gotten faster, lighter, more reliable and most importantly: “smarter”!

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I miss my flip phone! I was very disappointed when I switched to Republic Wireless (because I couldn’t get service at my new apartment through my old provider and needed wi-fi calling) and there were no flip phone options. I don’t need a big smartphone that doesn’t fit in my pocket!


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