Install your own phone!

Chilton guide to telephone installation

Chilton’s Guide to Telephone Installation and Repair

In the old days, the phone were the “property” of Ma Bell (aka the phone giant AT&T).Β  After lengthy anti trust case, AT&T was split into the “baby bells” and phone service changed for most consumers. People had to buy or rent phones and arrange for installation. Cellular phones were still not common until the late 1980s, and they were expensive. This would have been a good purchase for a public library back in the day, but I doubt would get much action these days. It’s an obvious weed, so I will add a link to Lily Tomlin’s Ernestine that originated on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. (An awesome show.) This clip is when Ernestine calls General Motors.



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  1. I’m reminded of calling popcorn

    “At the tone, Pacific Standard Time will be…3:07 and 50 seconds…beep”.

    When that was discontinued, people wondered how they would “set the time” on their computers. πŸ˜€

    1. When I still wore a watch (and everything wasn’t picking up time from the ether, plus electric clocks didn’t have battery backups), popcorn was a valuable resource. Plus it was so clever of them to pick that name/number.

      I think all the popcorns are permanently out of service and not assigned to anyone so old folks like us don’t bother a real person.

  2. I just repaired a Western Electric (Bell System) rotary dial desk phone yesterday because the dial was too slow. It works fine now. And I replaced all of the 4-prong plugs at my grand mother’s with 4P4C sockets a year ago. Phone repair is alive and well (:

  3. ISTR we just paid for our old Ma Bell phone (you could either communicate world wide with it, or bludgeon something large to death) and left it plugged into the wall.

    Ernestine’s “we’re the phone company, we don’t care” attitude still holds for all the telecom companies. She’d probably be answering/making calls for a cable company now.

    I still sometimes say “one ringy dingy… two ringy dingy” when making calls.

  4. I’m just old enough to remember using rotary dial phones … and sighing when a phone number had a lot of 8s, 9s, or 0s in it – you knew it was going to take forever to dial!

  5. In about 1990, the phone company contacted my Dad and said he could buy the rotary phone he’d been renting for 30 years for something like $50. By then you could buy a phone at a department store for about $20. He told them no, come and pick up the phone. They said, OK, you can keep it for free. We still have it, converted to a modular plug, and it still works.

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