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Electronic locks used by local phone companies?

Started by hamradioandphones, February 13, 2018, 04:55:50 PM

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I was wondering if anyone had any info on an electronic lock I saw in the last days of Southwestern Bell/SBC's payphones.
It was on the vault of a Western Electric payphone at a mall. I never got a picture of the lock, but the keyhole was shaped just like the cutout on the phone's case itself, kind of a sideways teardrop. The keyhole was just a shallow well, no tumblers, disks, etc, but it had an insulated electrical contact in the bottom, leading me to believe it was electronic.

This wasn't an Abloy or Medeco, as I also collect locks and know what they look like. I'd assume it was connected to a laptop or PDA, and required the tech to input a PIN or password to unlock the lock and probably collected logs about phones opened, etc.

Any info on what it was, who made it or pics of the "key" part? would love to eventually get one for my collection

Payphone installer

The electronic locks were made by several companies, different bell companies used different brands. The lock was electric in the sense that it had something inside that opened and allowed you to turn the key when you plugged in the electronic key. The problem was the unit had to be used in the order of the route if you plugged in the wrong phone in the wrong order it screwed the thing up. Plus the locks went bad often. Most Bell companies finally just got rid of them, it was a expensive mistake and a royal pain in the ass in lost labor hours. The locks were converted back to mechinal locks. Meaning they literally changed the guts of the lock. I believe I have several of them laying around here converted.


Interesting info. Do you have pics of the whole lock, or remember any of the companies? I can see how it would get troublesome if you messed the order up, sounds like a mess.
I've seen an electronic Medeco one, it was basically a standard Medeco lock with a special key that was attached by a cable to a handheld computer.


Likely looked like a good idea for the future but no one factored in that payphones weren't going to be a part of "the future"!



I'd agree with that. didn't take into account that cell phones were going to kill off the payphone

Payphone installer

Electronic locks were way before cell phones guys lots of time passed in order for cell phones to kill off payphones. The 60A public payphone plus had email way before you could even get a cell phone. Electronic locks were around in the early 90's the payphone industry never died till early 2002 or so then it was slow. Cell phones were for rich people for a long time. Rates were high for a long time. I remember when you got cable because there were no commercials. Now you pay to watch commercials.


I remember my Aunt had a car phone in the 90's and I thought that was the coolest thing. As for the locks, I saw them start using the electronic locks in the Southwestern Bell area in probably around 2005 or so. Payphones were starting to decline by then, that's what I meant. I realize different types of electronic locks have been around quite awhile.


Hah!! @hamradioandphones you've just jostled my memory and it brought back a fond vision.

I can still hear the sound of the car phone initializing when the ignition key was put into the RUN position.