Classic Rotary Phones Forum

Telephone Talk => General Discussion => Topic started by: Tonyrotary on December 30, 2009, 10:35:58 PM

Title: Golden age of telepnones
Post by: Tonyrotary on December 30, 2009, 10:35:58 PM
I got to thinking. What would you say was probably the golden age of telephones? For me I would say a few years after WW2. The 500 made its debut, yet there were plenty of 302's still around. Of course another question could be what was the golden age for telephone collecting? I would imagine years ago you could get some phones cheap that are worth top dollar today.
Title: Re: Golden age of telepnones
Post by: McHeath on December 30, 2009, 11:51:14 PM
This fellow: (

Has a history of what he calls 4th generation phones, essentially the 500/554/1500/2500/1554 etc era.  He considers them the peak of phone development in terms of durability, ease of use and quality.

I'd have to agree, it seems that by the time the 500 came along that the phone became a mature technology, was at it's peak of ease of use for the end user, and the durability will probably never be matched. 

Candlesticks are charming and all, but their usability is not the best, and the 302 is a nice design and I like the look, but they have no user adjustable ringer and are a more primitive design.  (please don't toss any shoes)

And while modern phones like the iPhone are slick and have a great wow factor, and can do lots of neato stuff, they are not really very good as phones.  I've never used a cell phone that had decent sound quality, and they get greasy and messy, break easily, and require a fair amount of thought from the user.  (i.e. "Is the battery charged?  Where did I put that charger?  How do I save this number?")

So I'd say that the Golden Age of phones was probably from about 1950 to 1984, in America as that's when the Bell System was broke up.  My 1984 WE 500 still works great, but I don't know of any cordless phones from that era that still work.  And any cell phone from then won't work either as the system has changed to digital. 
Title: Re: Golden age of telepnones
Post by: Phonesrfun on December 31, 2009, 12:54:09 AM
I know that most of you concentrate on the phone instrument itself, but I can't ignore the technological advances that were made in the electromechanical systems that were put in place to be the backbone of the telecommunications systems.  Central offices, microwave, satelites, etc.  I think that there were a couple of phases.  From the turn of the 20th century through the 30's the technology grew by leaps and bound in the basic elements.

Post WWII through the 70's I think was another phase; and then the phase that is represented by mostly electronic systems and switching and computer control.

If it were up to me, I'd say that the time from the early 1900's through the 1930's (Say, about 40 years) would be my vote for the Golden age.

-Bill Geurts
Title: Re: Golden age of telepnones
Post by: HobieSport on December 31, 2009, 08:58:50 AM
Heath, I'm a beginner in phone history, but I really agree. Thanks for the interesting points about phone design, 1950-1984. You know how much I love a standard basic 500, dial or push-button.

Bill, I can also see your interesting points about a "golden age" of telephone electromechanical developments, 1900-1930.

All I can say to ad to the conversation here is to repeat that for anyone who hasn't yet read Chapter Seven of Henry Dreyfuss's book, Designing For People, you might enjoy reading it. And for those who have already read it, you might enjoy reading it again.  Yes, once again, ad nauseum, I plead "Chapter Seven". And again, here's the entire very enjoyable and educational book online:

Heath, I am curious: I imagine that Henry Dreyfuss himself may have preferred a push button phone instead of a rotary dial. (Yeah, I know; possible blasphemy.) I seem to remember that early push-button phone experiments by Western Electric found that people tended to miss-dial faster and more efficiently, before they "got the hang of it".

I'm out of my league (as per usual) about when push button phones became more popular and available on the mass markets than rotary dials. Please advise, oh Masters.

Title: Re: Golden age of telepnones
Post by: bingster on December 31, 2009, 07:05:04 PM
I'm not sure I'd run a golden age up to 1984.  After phones went modular, a lot of the mystery of them was lost.  Quality also suffered from the mid-70s on.

Personally, I'd call 1930 to 1955 or so.   After the mid-50s, all the independents lost their uniqueness, and aped Western Electric.  I'd include the 1930s, because you just can't leave out the Art Deco KSS and AE phones.  Nor could you leave out the almighty 202.
Title: Re: Golden age of telepnones
Post by: HobieSport on December 31, 2009, 07:14:25 PM
Good points Bingster. Thanks.

My newbie question: What is an "Art Deco KSS"?
Title: Re: Golden age of telepnones
Post by: bingster on December 31, 2009, 07:27:01 PM
Sorry... Typing KSS was faster than typing Kellogg.
Title: Re: Golden age of telepnones
Post by: foots on January 01, 2010, 04:37:57 AM
     I'd have to say the '30s to the '50s. Telephones were more than just applainces, they were stylish and designed to fit the decor of the day. I think of Kelloggs, Stromberg Carlsons, and Connecticut phones for example.
Title: Re: Golden age of telepnones
Post by: Tonyrotary on January 01, 2010, 09:54:24 PM
Very interesting points made especially about the technology used at the central offices should be considered. Candlesticks as Heath said were cool looking but that is not why they made them. The transmitter that was widely used was position sensitive. Heath don't worry will not throw any shoes at you about the 302, but I do have a baseball bat ready. ;) Your right though, a little more primitive than the 500. But still a sweet design that I seem to admire more than the 500.
Title: Re: Golden age of telepnones
Post by: Dan/Panther on January 02, 2010, 01:44:02 PM
The golden age of telephones was pre pushbutton in my opinion.