Western Electric 2500When Western Electric adopted the Henry Dreyfuss design that would be known as the Model 500, no one suspected that its descendants would outlive the company itself. First manufactured in 1949, the 500 saw numerous variants over the years, and lives on even today as a frequently copied design. The most significant modification to the 500 came in 1964 when it was converted to touch-tone dialing. This model, the 1500, lacked the pound and asterisk buttons, both of which were added three years later on the model 2500. (This change denotes a switch from the Type 25 dial to the Type 35) Given its brief production life, the 1500 is today a highly collectible curiosity, the significance of the two missing buttons well known to collectors. The 2500 on the other hand, soldiered on for many years, right to the bitter end. With the 1984 fragmentation of AT&T and the dissolution of the Western Electric name, the 2500 was the end of a long line of dependable products.Many folk, too young to have grown up with rotary phones, find a 2500 among their earliest memories. It was very durable, immensely popular, and rode the wave of interest that surrounded the conversion to push-button dialing. Apparently the fascination with this new technology diverted attention away from aesthetics, as no one seems to have objected to what is clearly a supreme example of uninspired design. The lines, shapes and details of the original 500 have been disturbed, as if the inspired creation of a single artist had been modified by committee. It’s hard not to be reminded of the vapid appliances once made in the Eastern Bloc countries, lacking any semblance of style. The faceplate has a definite afterthought look to it, the buttons swimming in the center of that enormous flat expanse. Fortunately I’m old enough that I don’t have to try to look back on the 2500 with nostalgia, but for many that could be exactly how they are regarded. When determining collectible status, there are more influential factors than appearance, and one day the 2500 could find an appreciative audience. But for me, I can’t imagine ever seeing them as anything more than a successful, yet unsatisfying, last hurrah.