1960 -- Present

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The Instrument 1960 --Present

The 1960s saw telephones that were design-oriented. Western Electric introduced the "Princess" phone and the "Trimline" soon followed. Also at this time, the first "Touchtone" phones were introduced.

Keep in mind that telephones were not available for purchase. A customer had to rent a phone. And if they wanted push button service, or a premium phone such as the Trimline, there was an additional charge.

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Princess Telephone

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Trimline Telephone

Through the 1960s and early 1970s the phone company marketed these neat telephones as well as the normal desk and wall phones. But in the 1970s two major things happened in telephony. First, "modular" connections were introduced which cleared the way for a customer to simply plug a phone into a jack, much like a lamp. Second, "Design Line" telephones were introduced. For the first time a customer could chose from a variety of fashionable telephones and simply plug them in at home.

The Bell companies introduced several Design line telephones in the 1970s, and continued to add to the line up until 1983, the year the Bell System was divested.

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1970s "Celebrity" Telephone

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1970s Chest Telephone

When the federal government split the Bell System into 7 "Baby Bells," other companies stepped in and began producing all kinds of designer, cheap, and throwaway phones.

And although today designer phones are still produced, the entire market has swung back to phones that are more functional. The cordless portable phone is the best example. Pretty bland in basic beige, black, gray or white, the phone really has no form and simply functions as today's hi-tech offering available in all phone outlets.

And of course with the advent of cellular phones in the mid-1980s, the drive is on for fast, small, functional phones that have all the neat bells and whistles built in.

With the computer revolutionizing telephony, who knows what tomorrow brings? One thing is for sure. As the phones are marketed and retired, they almost immediately become collectibles. And some phones of the past are fetching upwards of $15,000. Truly a fully functional collectible if there ever was!    

Telephone instrument 1877-1900        Telephone Instrument 1900-1960

 

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