Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Artifact

So, TheBoy is in sixth grade. Technically, it's the first year of middle school, but the district hasn't gotten around to moving the sixth grades out of their respective elementary schools yet (we're a regional district of three separate towns that have separate elementary schools but one regional middle school and high school). To get the sixth graders ready for life in middle school, they have different teachers for different subjects, and as such have different homework assignments for every class.

For his Social Studies class, his assignment is to bring an "artifact" - something from a previous time period that has been replaced by more modern items - and describe it to the class. My first thought, naturally, was something that couldn't be brought into a school (ahem), followed closely by one of my grandfather's nightsticks as a town police officer. Neither option was particularly viable, though; and then the Mrs. struck on an absolute bit of genius.

TheBoy will be bringing this in as his artifact:


Yep, we actually have a genuine rotary phone in our house. I salvaged it from the pile of stuff in my grandmother's house right before we sold it - an actual Bell Systems rotary phone! On the dial is the telephone number - only five digits needed - and my kids have been absolutely fascinated by the fact that you have to actually let the dial rotate all the way back before you can dial the next number. They've been playing with it for the past three days, "calling" all their friends to see whose number takes the longest.

And I can remember when that was the only phone available...

That is all.

16 comments:

Brad_in_MA said...

Cool beans on the phone. My grandfather worked for Western Electric until he retired in the late 1960's . . . he was on the line that made the rotary dial mechanism for the phones. Now if you can dredge up a rotary dial trimline(tm) phone, I'll be really impressed. Ah, the nostalgia of simpler times.

DaddyBear said...

We have an old solid metal stick phone. Doesn't even have a dial. It's an ornament in the living room, but in dire circumstances, it will make one heck of a bludgeon.

Geodkyt said...

Watching a high school production of Grease last year or the year before.

Actress picks up the rotary dial phone prop, and then stabs the dial like it was a circular touch-tone keypad.

The drama teacher (late 30's) hadn't even noticed the anachronism there in MONTHS of rehersals.

Miguel said...

I actually need a rotary phone for the hurricane kit.

Dave H said...

I'm pretty sure that phone would still work if you connect it up. I think all landlines are required to recognize pulse dialing still.

In high school I was the SFX guy in the drama club one year. That meant I had to make the phone ring on cue. Not as easy as it sounds. Dad had a spare phone like that and we tried half a dozen ways before we decided to just plug the bell into a wall socket.

Glenn B said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Glenn B said...

Oh come on Jay, stop that, you are making me feel old. For my whole childhood and most of, if not all of, my teen years, we had a rotary dial phone in the home. I cannot remember for sure, but I think I had one in each of my apartments when I lived in California in the early 80's except maybe my last year there.

I just checked, my home phone has both touch tone and pulse tone dialing. I hit that switch, pressed the numbers, and heard the old lengthy noise made by the old fashioned phones. Truly reminiscent of bygone times.

I remember named prefixes too. There were ones like Empire, Evergreen, Glendale, Murray Hill, Pennsylvania all followed by 5 numbers. The numbers were all 7 long in New York city since the 1930s. You would dial the first two letters of the name followed by the numbers. A number such as:
Pennsylvania 6-5000 would be dialed as: PE6-5000. The P was the 7 and E was the 3 on those phones.

My mom could not get through to a number once and called the operator to assist her and asked the operator to dial a phone number beginning with the word Evergreen. The operator was as dumb as a rock with lips, she asked my mother something to the effect of: "Whats bees da first two lettas in dat word." It was simply amazing, at that time, to get an operator who not only did not know how to spell Evergreen but who also spoke so poorly.

My mom went into a tirade over that operator's inability to communicate and her inability to spell such a simple word. She let me and the operator now it.

After the call, she told me how it was the fault of JFK. She hated JFK and let me know it. She was right though, thanks to guys like JFK, then LBJ, companies like Ma Bell had been forced to hire under affirmative action based on racial quotas, regardless of someone being qualified for the job or not, and so went intelligence in the American workplace. I have always wondered why those companies simply did not hire intelligent folks from among minority groups, at the time, as opposed to just accepting anyone. Not trying to say anything by way of implication, just wondering...

All the best,
Glenn B

threecollie said...

And party lines...weren't they fun!

Jake (formerly Riposte3) said...

@Daddybear: If your phone system still accepts pulse dialing, then the dial is irrelevant. If you know what you're doing, you can dial any number using the hook switch.

Geodkyt said...

Model 500 phone, rotary dial, bomb-proof internals, and all, are still made these days (plus the clones that have cheap digital guts)

Model 2500 phones (same hone, with 12-digit keypad) are still made, and are darned near as tough.

Miguel, almost ANY landline phone that doesn't have a power cord in addition to the RJ11-jacked cord will work if the landline POTS system is up. Even the cheap flimsy touchtones sold in the dollar store. The POTS lines are energized from the switching office end -- not your end. The phone line carries enough juice to power the touchtone unit, although the keys may not be illuminated.

This presumes your home phone service is ON a POTS line -- if your phone service runs through your high-speed cable service, once the cable modem goes down, so does your landline service.

NOTE -- your local phone company is NO LONGER required to recognize pulse-dialing, so a true rotary phone may or may not work on your circuit.

PoppaJ said...

I grew up in a small town in rural Oklahoma and at least through the early 80's you only had to dial 4 numbers for in town calls. And seem to recall rotary phones being fairly common into the 90's.

notDilbert said...

We have a summer place in Maine where you can still dial just the last 4 numbers for in town calls, and untill the mid 60's all outgoing calls were still made with the assitance of "Maybel" the town's operator (and the police chief's wife - so she was also the Police Dispacher -- for the town's one patrol car )

Old NFO said...

Heh... I 'know' where one is STILL in use that was 'rented' to the folks in the late 1950s! She will NOT part with that phone!

MedicMatthew said...

My grandfather had a rotary phone in the basement outside of his workshop. After he died my mom relocated it to her kitchen. It is loud, it gets your attention and it's pretty funny to watch my 6 year old nephew make a call on it. We're pretty sure that it's older than I am, but it still works just fine.

gator said...

I'm told that area codes used to be assigned based on how long it took to dial them. Large metro areas with lots of phones to be called had "short" area codes.

Geodkyt said...

Where I work, locals do not write down anything but the last 5 digits, because there are only three exchanges, so you can distinguish the number with only the last five. (The rest of the county has another two or so exchanges.)