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Western Electric Code-A-Phone 700

Started by Jrs1958, January 22, 2017, 06:07:37 PM

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Picked this up today.  From what I read about it, it was the first commercial answering machine from 1966.  You could lease one from the phone company.  It weighs 26 pounds! Anyone know much about these?

Victor Laszlo

I know that it was made by Ford Industries, that it was not the first answering machine, that the Electronic Secretary predated it by at least a decade, that answering machines were first made available by the BOC's in the early '50's...what else do you need to know?

Here's the research and history:


They usually have two tape decks.  One is for your outgoing message and the other is for your incoming messages.  Since it was made in 1966, it probably uses reel-to-reel tapes.


Wow, thanks for setting me straight Victor.  I read it was one of the first answering machines made for the public, but I guess not.  And thank you Andre for your useful information.


As a kid I would go to Ford Industries on Johnson Creeek Rd.  in Portland, OR and Dumpster dive. I think they repaird or manufactured Code-a-Phone products. In those days there were often rotary dial trimline WE handsets there and when a Code-a-Phone of that era was disassembled it would yield the guts from a Trimline , including actual base. I long for some of those old goldmines of parts I used to have available to me. SOme goldmines I only discovered shortly before they closed Like the Pacific Northwest bell outlet store.

I often would se pieces of units like those pictured and I think I even took a nearly complete one home once (that was tough on a bicycle)

Phat Phantom's phreaking phone phettish

Vern P

I used one of these for years, (around 1990) still have 3 of these. The tape was not a reel to reel, but on a spool in a can. The end was pulled out and hook to something, been a long time since I played with these.



I didn't know about the spool in the can!  I always thought they followed the lines of the tape recorders.


when did the Bell system allow a user to use their own answering machine ? What year ? It was my understanding that only Bell system components could be used for a long time and the code-a-phone 700 was made by WE in a attempt to control the market after the court decision. So to me these early Code-A-Phone 700's the list 1 units that you leased, were some cool history.


There is another topic here started today with someone restoring one of these. You may want to read that one and reach out to him.
Harry Smith
ATCA 4434

"There is no try,
there is only
do or do not"


Quote from: Xymox on August 16, 2022, 02:18:12 PMwhen did the Bell system allow a user to use their own answering machine ? What year ?
Connection to the network is usually measured from the Carterphone decision. From Wikipedia:

This particular device was involved in a landmark United States regulatory decision related to telecommunications. Twelve years earlier, a court had ruled in the Hush-A-Phone case that devices could mechanically connect to the telephone system (such as a rubber cup attached to a phone-company-owned telephone) without the permission of AT&T. In 1968, the Federal Communications Commission extended this privilege by allowing the Carterfone and other devices to be connected electrically to the AT&T network, as long as they did not cause harm to the system. This ruling, commonly called "the Carterfone decision" (13 F.C.C.2d 420), created the possibility of selling devices that could connect to the phone system using a protective coupler and opened the market to customer-premises equipment. The decision is often referred to as "any lawful device", allowing later innovations like answering machines, fax machines, and modems (which initially used the same type of manual acoustic coupler as the Carterfone) to proliferate.

Some key dates regarding the first availability of answering machines from the AT&T PR Department (Events in Telephone History):

1950 - JULY 21 - F.C.C. suggests field tests of telephone answering devices.

1950 - SEPTEMBER 29 - Field trial of automatic answering service to 10 customers in New York and Cleveland announced as under way.

1952 - MAY 16 - Limited deliveries of 1A answering set, developed by Bell Laboratories, started about this time.

1952 - SEPTEMBER 25 - Improved telephone answering set announced.

In the following years, "tested" products made by other companies were available from the Bell System using KS- model numbers.

Check the TCI Library for earlier models of the Code-a-Phone and for the Bell System's answering products. Starter searches:
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