The Stamp and Coin Place Blog: connecting the past and present of stamp and coin collecting, and looking to the future.

Rotary Dial Telephones

(Via Billy Brown on Flickr, CC 2.0)

(Via Billy Brown on Flickr, CC 2.0)

Rotary phones, now long extinct from any actual use, still make for great collectibles.

Tiny, speed-of-light hand-held phones have now taken over. But there’s something romantic and charming about having to slow dial a number instead of pressing a single button on your speed dial. Plus, vintage rotary phones look pretty darn good sitting on a table at home.

The rotary style telephone was popular through much of the 20th century. The first telephone dials were very complicated, needing complex sequences to function. This was improved upon and simplified over time for a better-functioning system.

A rotary dial telephone charm, available here.

A rotary dial telephone charm, available here.

The science-inclined might now be asking: How does a rotary dial phone work?

It all starts with a pulse. The number that the caller dials sends out a certain frequency of pulses. Once the number is dialed, a recoil spring inside sends the dial back to its starting position. The series of pulses interrupt the current flow of the phone’s line and the information goes to a selector system that makes the outgoing connection.

The rotary dial was slowly replaced by the keypad push-button phone, an invention introduced at the 1962 World’s Fair in Seattle.

Some places still use rotary phones for historical purposes, like the U.S. Route 66 Blue Swallow Motel, which promotes itself through its vintage Route 66 appeal.

Now, of course, home phones will soon become things of the past, with our phones buzzing in our pockets instead of ringing in the air.

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