TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Touch Tone v. Rotary, Desk v. Wall Sets?

Re: Touch Tone v. Rotary, Desk v. Wall Sets?

Mike Z (
Sat, 26 May 2007 17:53:47 +0000

PAT: do NOT display my email address!

hancock4 wrote:

> When Touch Tone dialing was introduced, the Bell System came out
> with newly designed desk and wall telephone sets to accomodate the
> keypad.

> The desk set (dial 500, TT 1500/2500) became fatter and higher to
> accomodate the tone pad. However, the wall set (dial 554, TT
> 1554/2554) became slimmer.

> So, I was wondering why the desk set became bigger while the wall
> set became smaller to accomodate Touch Tone? Anybody know?

I don't know why Western Electric chose this as their "standard" or
most "popular" touchtone telephone sets.

BUT ... in the early 1960s, Western Electric did come out with a
rotary dial "slim" wall telephone, the same shape and size as the
"slim" standard touchtone wall telephone. Notice how this "slim"
wall telephone is roughly the same dimensions as a Princess desk
telephone! It might have been that Western Electric originally
intended this as a Princess wall telephone?

Western Electric "knock-off clones", such as 1960s+ era ITT-Kellogg
and Stromberg Carlson, and possibly even partially Western/AT&T-held
Northern Electric as well, did continue manufacturing rotary dial
"slim" wall telephones.

And the very first touchtone desk telephones, those being used as
experimental models in the late 1950s and into the early 1960s, as
well as possibly the very first public touchtone phones in 1963, were
standard "rotary" housing 500 sets, with the 10 (or later 12 or
Autovon 16) button keypads arranged in their 3x4 (or 4x4) matrix
placed inside of a "round" complete "component" that "replaced" the
500 set's rotary dial component. Again, there were some of these
"knock-off clone" manufacturers such as ITT-Kellogg and Stromberg
Carlson, and possibly at times even Northern Electric, which continued
to market these touchtone desk phones that used traditional "rotary"
housings, only that the DTMF 3x4 (or 4X4 "Autovon") keypad was placed
where the rotary dial would have been.

And, this "rounded component" for the 3x4 (or 4x4 16 button Autovon)
keypad could also be placed where the rotary dial would have been in a
standard 2-gong (larger) 554 wall telephone base, using a 554 wall
telephone's standard "rotary" housing. Again, ITT and Stromberg, and
possibly Northern Electric, marketed this arrangement as well...

And ITT and Stromberg (and possibly Northern) also marketed the "slim"
wall telephone with touchtone keypad.

Note how the Princess desk telephone in the "touchtone mode" has an
outer housing that has 10 or 12 or 16 squares "cut out" to fit over
the buttons. Similarly, the "slim" wall telephone when used for
touchtone, also has 10 or 12 or 16 little "cut out" squares to fit
over the buttons.

I honestly don't know WHY Western Electric chose to do things a bit
"differently" for touchtone desk and wall phones... why it was rare
for Western to continue to make rotary "slim" wall phones, why they
really didn't continue with the "554-like" (2-gong) wall phone with
the "rounded component" touchtone 3x4 (or 4x4) keypad, or why they
chose to re-do the housing for the desk touchtone phone, making the
keypad a separate sqared off component with a "fat, squared" housing?

If you accidently dropped a Western 2500 set with the fat square
housing, remember how the face-plate would come loose, and sometimes
there could be damage to the internal wires now exposed? If Western
would have simply put a rounded outer component with 3x4 (or 4x4)
touchtone pad inside, placed where the rotary dial would have been,
with a "rotary" standard 500 housing, if you would have dropped that
on the floor accidently, there would be LESS overall "trauma" to the

I dunno, but these apparantly were decisions that Western Electric,
Bell Labs, and/or AT&T Headquarters made some 40+ years ago, which,
IMO, were a bit "silly". They wouldn't have had to design TWO
different housings for a 500 or 500-like desk telephone, one for the
rotary 500 set, and one for touchtone 2500/etc. desk telephones...
Maybe there's someone retired from Western, Labs, or AT&T who knows
the reason?

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