I told you I brought a nifty phone home from vacation, didn’t I? Here it is, a Western Electric model 5302, fresh from an antique mall in Reno, Nevada. (on right below) I haven’t gone over it with a fine tooth comb, but for my $20 investment I can’t have done too poorly on the deal. So what makes a model 5302 so special? Here’s some background:

Western Electric 500 and 5302The photo above illustrates the most obvious difference between the 5302 and the 500 it emulates: the footprint. The 5302 has the same diminutive stature as the 302 it’s based on, so the body is chopped-off behind the handset. Several models of phones have acquired nicknames, the “Lucy phone” and “mushroom phone” coming quickly to mind. In fact, I’ve even heard the AE40 called “the Shirley Temple phone”. (stop, you’re killing me.) The 5302, on the other hand, has the dubious honor of being called the “transition phone”. By nature, nicknames tend to be overly simplistic, but in the case of the 5302 it is simply incorrect. Because the set consists of a 302 chassis topped by a model 500 look-alike body, it is mistakenly believed that the 5302 was a stepping stone, a “toe in the water” stage before the 500 was fully implemented. That scenario wouldn’t have made much sense for Western Electric, but the truth also has an air of the illogical, particularly in the light of today’s manufacturing and marketing practices. Read the rest of this entry »