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Kiss Ma Bell GoodbyeKiss Ma Bell Goodbye
How to Install Your Own Telephones, Extensions & Accessories

Youngsters, long ago there was only one phone company called Bell Telephone. Eventually it became a part of American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T) and morphed into the giant monopoly still called by some as “Ma Bell”. In 1982, the giant AT&T was subdivided into what was called the “Baby Bells” and as technology changed so did AT&T as well as the whole communication industry. When this book was published, the idea of installing your own phone was unheard of.  So, this book was a good choice in the early 1980s.

So, why is a public library holding on to this lovely item? (Yes, it is still in “active” circulation.) Maybe nostalgia for the good old days of the rotary phone. Have they had a rush of interest in people wanting to install traditional land lines? Regardless, this is a weeder of the first degree.

This post coincided with my husband and doing some spring cleaning. We found an old rotary phone that can join that book in the weeding pile.


Kiss Ma Bell Goodbye back cover

instrument decorator model

answering unit

wireless telephone state of the art


  1. “And now it’s completely legal!” – It’s still amazing to think that it was once illegal to modify your telephone hardware. Now phone companies want nothing to do with the inside wiring.

    Also, don’t junk that rotary phone! Ebay it at the very least, or put it in a display @yourlibrary!

  2. I still have a land line and a pulse phone. I never bothered to upgrade because today’s phones allow me to switch to tone once the connection has been made. A friend with expertise in this area told me that the phone companies would like to get rid of pulse but would then be forced to stop charging extra for tone. Perhaps this will end shortly because I’m looking at a cheaper bundled package from Comcast that will allow me to keep my old number. I do get annoyed with companies who want my business but assume that every phone in the country has touch.

  3. I’ve heard that even now, in 2013, there are still people renting their Bell-era analog phones from the phone company. (AT&T and the Baby Bells have long since turned the accounts over to a lease servicing company, but still!) It makes sense, though; the old Western Electric phones were built like tanks (we’re talking 50-year useful life or better) and a lot of people figured they didn’t need any other phone.

    Also, I have a 1969-vintage WECo Model 500 (rotary dial!) at home. It still works, of course, and it even works on modern Verizon FiOS lines if you wire a modular cord to it. The switches still accept rotary dial just fine!

    1. Yes, my oh-so-avant-garde white rotary desk phone from Western Electric (says Property of Bell System on it, hah!) that I have had for about 40 years works fine still, hooked up to my RCN service (except that I can’t, obviously, “press One for…”). It must be a newer model than yours, though, because it came with the modular receptable plug-in thing. The only thing is, sometimes I go to make a call and just stare for a moment while I figure out what to do next…

  4. After two years of having a cellphone, I am switching back to my landline. A cell was cheaper, but unreliable. I can’t wait till my contract is up and I go back to a single touchtone phone, plus two kettlebell dial phones. They will be proudly reinstalled (myself–but I don’t need this book) and will be the subject of many a raised eyebrow and shocked glance when my friends ask to use the phone. (The touchtone phone will be in the bedroom, out of reach of houseguests.)

  5. Oh the rotary phone! Remember the frustration if you misdialed & had to start over?

    1. And how it was better to call numbers with 1s and 2s instead of 9s and 0s in them, because it seemed to take forever to dial those “outer” numbers!

  6. There are people that collect rotary phones. My engineer husband loves them for the nostalgia. Remember when the exchanges
    started with letters instead of numbers? Our punk ass 20 year old son has the ring of the old rotary phone as the ring tone of his cell phone.
    Go figure?

    1. Actually, that’s pretty common now. I set that ring for my iPhone last year, feeling all daring and retro (and also, it was something I would be sure to notice, unlike the butterflies-and-fairies sorts of ringtones), and now I hear it all over the place.

  7. I just realized the “state of the art” wireless telephone is unusable: It only has 9 buttons!

  8. I want to know more about this “Ultimate Telephone Accessory”! Here it is 2013, and I still can’t control my household appliances from anywhere in the world. Hmph.

    On the other hand, we do have a 1950s Western Electric rotary phone. It works just fine, with the added bonus that if you feel the need to hang up on someone, it has that extra “oomph” that the situation deserves. 😀

  9. Before you junk your rotary phone (assuming it still works) be sure you have a landline that still works when the power fails.

  10. We still have a rotary phone, and my sweetie’s stepdaughter who’s 27 refers to it as “the phone you stick your finger in”.

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