Author Topic: "The Secret life of Machines - The Telephone"  (Read 5846 times)

Offline twocvbloke

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"The Secret life of Machines - The Telephone"
« on: December 20, 2011, 01:22:31 AM »
Not found a mention of this yet, so I thought I'd add it, it's an old British TV Programme, made for Channel 4, and the three series of it show the various machines we use every day (at least, what we used back then), and one of them was on the telephone, and these links are to the show uploaded to Youtube:

The Telephone - Part 1
The Telephone - Part 2
The Telephone - Part 3

Worth watching for seeing all the nice old equipment, and some home-made experiments...  ;D

Offline bingster

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Re: "The Secret life of Machines - The Telephone"
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2011, 01:59:09 AM »
I love this program.  It used to be played over here, and the telephone episode is one of my favorites (naturally).

For those who enjoyed the telephone episode, all the rest can be downloaded for free, here:

http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/SLOM/
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Offline twocvbloke

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Re: "The Secret life of Machines - The Telephone"
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2011, 03:58:29 AM »
Funnily enough, it was my friend in Texas that told me about it, even though it's a British show made for what was then britain's newest terrestrial TV channel (up until Channel 5 started), though in the states I think it was shown on the Discovery channel, I think.... ???

I have all three series on my computer and mobile phone, cos it's nice to be able to watch something on the go, I like them all, they may be out of date these days, but that appeals to my love of vintage things... :)

Offline old_stuff_hound

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Re: "The Secret life of Machines - The Telephone"
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2011, 07:11:05 AM »
I love those shows! Thanks for the download links!

Tim Hunkin (creator of the series) has a Youtube channel that's quite entertaining.

Offline Stephen Furley

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Re: "The Secret life of Machines - The Telephone"
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2011, 03:22:24 PM »
That's one of my favourites, The Statesman, ringing at the beginning, in probably it's most common colour, though not my favourite one.  There are still a fair number of these around; we've got some 26 year old DTMF and 17 year old LD models still in use, and they're far more reliable than much later ones.  They'll probably all be gone within the next year as we are likely to be all IP by then.

The Telephone Technology Showcase, basically a BT museum in London, mentioned in the credits is long gone.

He didn't mention what is for me probably the most important advantage of digital systems; the fact that you no longer need a pair of wires for every telephone; these days thousands of calls can be transmitted over the same wires, or these days more likely fibres.  A handful of fibres starts to look very attractive when compared to a few thousand copper pairs.

Offline gpo706

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Re: "The Secret life of Machines - The Telephone"
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2011, 08:46:37 PM »
I still have copper pairs Stephen, in fact BT had to replace them a few winters ago when the weight of the snow on an overhanging tree caused the branches to sag onto the lines and dislocate them.

I been looking for this show for ages, (I have a few on VHS from original TX) nice to see it surface again.
"now this should take five minutes, where's me screwdriver went now..?"

Offline GG

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Re: "The Secret life of Machines - The Telephone"
« Reply #6 on: December 21, 2011, 01:03:04 AM »


Stephen, I have a GEC Statesman that was molded entirely in glow-in-the-dark plastics.  By day it looks approximately ivory.   At night it glows at first a yellowish-green, and then decreases in brightness to a kind of blueish hue similar to a Trimphone tritium dial.  How rare were those?  A salesman's sample as an alternative to a clear housing?

What's your favorite color for those? 

You should make an offer to your employer to take those box-loads of obsoleted Statesman sets off their hands at no cost for disposal, once they've replaced them with VOIP phones.  IMHO it's just silly to replace simple, robust, reliable technology, with something that's intrinsically more complex and susceptible to failure, but you'd expect to hear that opinion in these pages, and in any case, it's a win if you can capture the lot of 'em before they're headed for a rubbish tip;-). 


Offline twocvbloke

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Re: "The Secret life of Machines - The Telephone"
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2011, 03:26:33 AM »
I've never really been a fan of digital systems for communications, the problem with it is it's either On or Off, so you either get a signal, or you get silence, just like with digital TV when you lose signal, with analogue it just got a bit fuzzy, but with digital, you get impossible blockyness and the sound cuts out and squeaks & pops, so it's an all or nothing setup, there's nothing inbetween.... :(

That glow-in-the-dark Statesman could be handy in the event of a power failure, most hard-wired phones continue to work when the mains lacks electrickery as they're usually Exchange-supplied, and exchanges have backup power, so you could at least find the phone in the dark and check on loved ones to make sure they're okay in the powercut... :)

I do wonder what people on VOIP systems do in power fail conditions, cos they usually rely on the user-end having power for the modems & ATAs and the phones themselves, I'd prefer to have a good old fashioned line powered phone myself...  :D

Offline Stephen Furley

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Re: "The Secret life of Machines - The Telephone"
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2011, 04:56:19 AM »
I still have copper pairs Stephen, in fact BT had to replace them a few winters ago when the weight of the snow on an overhanging tree caused the branches to sag onto the lines and dislocate them.

As do most people, but only as far as the local exchange at most, and you've probably only got one or two lines at home.  The vast majority of the telephone system is digital on fibre.  A couple of pairs of copper is probably better than a couple of fibres, but the same couple of fibres compares very well to a few thousand pairs of copper.
« Last Edit: December 21, 2011, 04:58:33 AM by Stephen Furley »

Offline Stephen Furley

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Re: "The Secret life of Machines - The Telephone"
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2011, 05:44:36 AM »
I still have copper pairs Stephen, in fact BT had to replace them a few winters ago when the weight of the snow on an overhanging tree caused the branches to sag onto the lines and dislocate them.

As do most people, but only as far as the local exchange at most, and you've probably only got one or two lines at home.  The vast majority of the telephone system is digital on fibre.  A couple of pairs of copper is probably better than a couple of fibres, but the same couple of fibres compares very well to a few thousand pairs of copper.



Stephen, I have a GEC Statesman that was molded entirely in glow-in-the-dark plastics.  By day it looks approximately ivory.   At night it glows at first a yellowish-green, and then decreases in brightness to a kind of blueish hue similar to a Trimphone tritium dial.  How rare were those?  A salesman's sample as an alternative to a clear housing?

What's your favorite color for those? 

You should make an offer to your employer to take those box-loads of obsoleted Statesman sets off their hands at no cost for disposal, once they've replaced them with VOIP phones.  IMHO it's just silly to replace simple, robust, reliable technology, with something that's intrinsically more complex and susceptible to failure, but you'd expect to hear that opinion in these pages, and in any case, it's a win if you can capture the lot of 'em before they're headed for a rubbish tip;-). 

I've never seen a glow in the dark Statesman; could you post a picture of it?  My favourite is the dark red one with dark grey cords, a bit like the cords on the early colour 500s; I think it's an absolutely suburb looking 'phone, and still can't think of it as being getting on for thirty years old.  Second choice would be blue, brown and grey equal third, and stone last.  I think there were a couple of other colours, but those are the only ones which I have.

We don't have box-loads of them; and probably never did have; there would have been far less extensions when they were supplied.  There are probably about a dozen still in use and maybe another 15 or so which were taken out of use a couple of years ago because they are LD only, and don't work with the voicemail system.  A couple of those were re-instated recently in places where voicemail wasn't needed.

After those we had some Titan 'phones, made in China but worked quite well.  They do earth recall ok, but don't like TB with the Mitel 3300.  We have to use TB in the two areas where we have analogue 'phone circuits patched through network cabling; there are no earth wires on the voice panels.  These are failing now, mainly keypads.  After this they bought 100 Interquartz ones, probably only about six or seven years ago, but they were the cheapest ones they could possibly find, and most of them died quite quickly; there are only a few left now.

I'll take all of the Statesman ones when they come out, and probably one of each of the others, but the rest of them can go in the WEEE skip.

The Mitel IP 'phones have actually been very reliable.  We probably have about 400-500 of them at the moment, and so far I've scrapped one; that was because somebody managed to set fire to it, don't ask.  They are expensive, about 100 for the 'phone, and about another 100 or so for the licence to connect it to the system.  200 for a 'phone sounds terrible, but if you compare them to analogue 'phones with similar features, the difference isn't quite so great as it seems.  We also save the costs of installing and maintaining the analogue infrastructure, which are substantial.  We have the IP infrastructure for general data, CCTV, lighting controls and all the rest of it, so the small additional bandwidth used by the telephones effectively goes along for free.  If an analogue circuit fails, which happens not infrequently, our analogue cabling is in a pretty terrible state, and has been for many years, it's cheaper to put in an IP 'phone to replace it than to pay for an engineer to come in and fix it.  Also, these days things are very dynamic, the need for telephones changes by the day, sometimes by the hour.  If somebody needs six 'phones in one room this week, but four of them have to move somewhere else next week, that's no problem.  With analogue, if there weren't six pairs going to the room we'd have to get an engineer to install them, and that cost would be wasted by the following week when they were no longer needed.  With IP, as long as the network goes to the room we can plug in a switch, and as many 'phones as we like.  Even if there is no network there we can set up a wireless bridge with a couple of access points to get service into a room for an event, but this seldom happens; the network goes to most rooms.


Offline Owain

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Re: "The Secret life of Machines - The Telephone"
« Reply #10 on: December 21, 2011, 06:59:56 AM »

The Mitel IP 'phones have actually been very reliable.  We probably have about 400-500 of them at the moment, and so far I've scrapped one; that was because somebody managed to set fire to it, don't ask.  They are expensive, about 100 for the 'phone, and about another 100 or so for the licence to connect it to the system.  200 for a 'phone sounds terrible, but if you compare them to analogue 'phones with similar features, the difference isn't quite so great as it seems. 

But if you compare them to open standard SIP IP phones and open source VoIP exchange software, they start looking expensive. The phone licensing alone is 50,000 on your site.

Offline gpo706

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Re: "The Secret life of Machines - The Telephone"
« Reply #11 on: December 21, 2011, 08:04:11 PM »
Stephen - I'am doubly blessed, we have the two core BT copper and the abandoned Telewest/NTL/Virgin already cabled in from the pavement junction box.

Comes in handy if we get fed up with BT.
"now this should take five minutes, where's me screwdriver went now..?"

Offline twocvbloke

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Re: "The Secret life of Machines - The Telephone"
« Reply #12 on: December 22, 2011, 01:50:02 AM »
Stephen - I'am doubly blessed, we have the two core BT copper and the abandoned Telewest/NTL/Virgin already cabled in from the pavement junction box.

Comes in handy if we get fed up with BT.

Up until we moved to this house, we had that option too (and I did in my first house too, but went with NTL cos they had TV!!), now we're just back to the BT monopoly, we can use another supplier, but ultimately it's BT at the helm... ::)

Offline GG

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Re: "The Secret life of Machines - The Telephone"
« Reply #13 on: December 22, 2011, 04:41:52 AM »


Hi Stephen-

I'll start posting lots of pictures of all kinds of stuff here once I get my photo setup operational.  I'm on holiday right now, will be back to home base next week but have a stack of work waiting for me.

The glow-in-the-dark one really does look like ivory in daylight, think of an ivory 746.  Still has the original GEC label for the dial number card.

I've also got a green one (DTMF) that's practically exactly the same color as the dark green handset on the two-tone green Trimphone (not the same as 706/746 dark green, more dark olive or something).  If you've never found one in that color before I could see trading it for one in stone (also DTMF), don't worry about the wiring, I can do all the conversions here. 


Offline twocvbloke

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Re: "The Secret life of Machines - The Telephone"
« Reply #14 on: January 21, 2012, 04:45:56 PM »
I've got the three series on, ironically, my phone... :D

I wouldn't mind seeing some of his work, knowing that he often uses recycled parts & products, cos I like doing that myself... ;D