Monday, August 7, 2017

The Pay Telephone. The WHAT Phone?

Your friendly and helpful switchboard Operator. Via:

The Doc's Waiting Room - a travel backwards in excavating magazine fossils.

While waiting, I ran across a November, 2015 Popular Mechanics magazine. Hey, in a doctor's office anything dated 2015 is like having that day's newspaper.  I was pleased my reading options weren't limited to a 1973 issue of  The New Yorker, or a 1985 Better Homes and Gardens, or any 1999 magazine with stories "looking back on the 90's" or on how the world will end because of Y2K.

The Pop Mech article examined the reliable and humble, yet rapidly vanishing, pay phone. They were the technological cell phone of their era.

And below, the pay phone's sometime-companion, the Telephone booth, approximately 1,370 luxurious square inches inside a four walled, "plexi-plastic glass" container...all to yourself.

US/UK telephone booths. US image via; UK image via

A few excerpts from Pop Mech's pay phone story:
Model: Protel XP1230
Produced: Lakeland, FL

Number of Parts: 453

Time to Disassemble: 4 hours, 45 minutes

For years,if you were away from home and wanted to make a phone call, pay phones were your only option.
They're also basically bullet-proof, devised to withstand all manner of vandalism and theft. (Maybe the pay phone designers and technicians should be in charge of the NSA? - DD)
The coin box, with a capacity of up to $195, is a target for theft.
Two mechanisms must be unlocked to remove it. One is built into the coin-box lid, and the other is a four-armed locking mechanism behind the vault door. Until turned by a T-key, the arms fit into slots in the body of the phone, keeping the door shut.
Do check out the Pop Mech link, the design and construction of the coin box is nothing short of a miniature bank vault.

What does it look like inside? The pay phone, disassembled, all 453 parts:

Photo: Popular Mechanics

The Pop Mech link has a larger image of the above. Don't not check it out, Now...where's that one wire?

The lowly pay phone, far more intricate in its construction than I knew or would have ever imagined, invented in 1889 by William Gray:
It was first installed in the Hartford Bank, Hartford, Connecticut, by the Southern New England Telephone Company in 1889. In 1891, William Gray formed the Gray Telephone Pay Station to rent out coin-operated telephones to store owners.

Making a secure and reliable pay phone turned out to be tough to do, and in 1889 William Gray got a patent for an innovative coin payment mechanism he was able to defend for decades.
Does anyone remember the last time they used a pay phone?

Early cell phones (left), from WiseGeek. Smallest cell phone (right)

We've gone from carrying a suitcase to, "where's my cell phone...oh, there -  under that book of matches."

From Compare my Mobile:
The first commercially available mobile phone was the Motorola DynaTAC, which must take the prize for the largest mainstream mobile phone available ever. It went on sale on 6th March 1983, offered 30 minutes of talk time or 8 hours of standby per charge and was incredibly popular.
The phone revolutionised [sic] the way in which people communicate, even if it was incredibly bulky and unwieldy – and has become an iconic piece of technology. With a price of $3,995 at the time of release, in addition to its cumbersome design, you may be forgiven for thinking that the phone wasn’t too much of a commercial success. However, sales were enormous and retailers had waiting lists thousands of people long. Despite its size, the DynaTAC was incredibly successful.
Via Flicker.

Without the pay phone telephone booth, neither Superman nor Shoeshine Boy would have been able to change into their superhero garb.

I wonder if the popularity of pay phones and booths will ever return? Going retro as vinyl  did, which appears to be still going strong.

FMJRA 5a and 5b, The Other McCain.

Thanks @ Kevin & Smitty and EBL.

1 comment:

David Drake said...

Ooooooooooooh, it's a SPAM ad. Unless there was a typo in your link, it led to an unclaimed domain page.

No more comments (or "soup" / "Seineld") for you.