Telephone History, Collecting & Do-It-Yourself Projects
Telephone history resources:
- The Bell System Memorial – site created as a memorial to the people, history and technology behind the Bell System of telephone companies. This is a comprehensive site that includes both history and resources for collectors.
- Corporate history site from AT&T – includes a timeline and historic video clips
- AT&T Archives on the AT&T Tech Channel site – includes great video clips from the company’s history.
- Modern Marvels: The Telephone – video of program produced by The History Channel in 2005 that does a good job of explaining the history of the telephone and how modern land-line and mobile phones work. If you subscribe to Netflix, you may be able to stream it there.
- Birth of the Blue Bell Telephone Sign – history and images of early Bell System signage.
- The Telephone Archive site lists many other links related to telephone history.
- Telephone World – a site created by a retired telephone worker that includes lots of technical information about the history of telephone systems and links to other history sites.
- The History of Maritime Communication and More – a nice timeline of communication history by a travel media professional.
- Museums – the Telephone Archive site lists museums around the U.S. you can visit. These are often places where you can see antique telephones and equipment and experience using an antique telephone switchboard.
Telephone history of particular locations:
- New England Telephone History – a timeline created by New England Telephone & Telegraph in the early 1980s.
- Portland, Maine and the Telephone – my own timeline for the history of telephone service in Maine’s largest city.
- The History of the Telephone on Prince Edward Island (Canada) – This site provides an interesting example of telephone service history from a local perspective.
- Helena Telephone History – a timeline of telephone history in Helena, Montana including newspaper articles from the time.
- The Telecommunications History Group – Based in both Denver and Seattle, this organization hosts a nice virtual museum that includes an online tour of an historic telephone headquarters building in Denver, one of the last grand central offices of the Bell system.
- Yesterday’s Telephone Numbers – an article from the blog Forgotten New England about the format of phone numbers and exchanges in New England over the 1940s-1960s.
- The Telephone Exchange Name Project – learn about early telephone exchange names and look up exchange names from around the world
- Old telephone directories have been scanned and made available at Archive.org. You can try searching for a particular city or region.
- The Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC’s) license database is a good resource for researching the history of mobile telephone service in a given area of the United States. Users can search for licenses granted to mobile phone operators and view the history of each license to determine when a particular company entered a given market or changed hands.
Sites dedicated to antique telephone collecting:
- Telephone Archive – great site with resources and images contributed by multiple collectors – includes history and images of telephone company signage and examples of rotary dial number cards. This is probably one of the best resource sites I have found.
- Classic Rotary Phones – a web forum managed by Dennis Markham
- Tutorials for replacing number cards on various rotary phone dials – from the Bell System Memorial site
- Antique Telephone Collectors Association
- Telephone Collectors International – check out their TCI Library page for access to over 10,000 telephony documents (including technical diagrams and resources for antique telephones)
- C*NET (the Collectors’ Net) – a network of collectors running antique telephone systems connected to each other over the internet.
Do-It-Yourself resources online:
- Create Your Own Android Vintage Phone – project posted on Google Code by Basil Shikin. In this rather complicated modification, Shikin adapted the ringer box of an old candlestick telephone to house the components needed to turn the telephone into a customized VoIP phone he could use. View website / Download pdf version
- Make Your Own 1920’s Style Bluetooth Handset – project posted on Engadget.com by Jon Preussner. View website / Download pdf version
- Model 500 Mod – Tyler James Brainerd posted this project on his Tumblr blog in which he modified an old rotary phone to make calls through the internet on his computer. View website / Download pdf version
- How to Turn an Old WWII Field Phone Into a Bluetooth Handset – project posted on the blog The Art of Manliness. This requires some soldering skills and at least some basic knowledge of electronics. View website / Download pdf version
- How to Turn an Old Brick Phone into a Bluetooth Headset for Your iPhone (or any cell phone) – project posted on the Design Doing blog by Brian Witlin. View website / Download pdf version
- Create your own Retro Wireless Handset – project posted on Make Magazine’s Projects Blog. Turn an unused handset from an old telephone into a wireless handset to pair with your cell phone. View website / Download pdf version
- Flitz Polish – This is an example of a product some restorers use to clean up antique telephones (I cannot attest to the quality of this product over others, but this gives you an example of what to look for)