Behold the Trommelwähler!


The Stairmaster design was based on this.


Most of them seem to be variants upon the original Bell design. I guess that when the US and UK updated to the modern plug, not every country followed - and some had mutated in their own direction already. I always thought the German plug was unnecessarily chunky and old-fashioned, but some of these are ridiculous!


Your ruminations are evil. Evil I say!

Go for it.


needs more banana*

have to call my patent attorney, brb

* this Imgur album is nice


That is awesome. I had no idea this show existed, so thanks for the introduction!


There are some great episodes - between this and the series he did about toys a few years ago, I can almost forgive him Top Gear.

Almost. The Lego house he built and slept in was pretty cool.


I seem to remember the first phone my parents got set up with (back in the good old days of Communist British Telecom, so it was a bit more of an event than these days) and I think the phone was wired directly into a circular grey junction box, then. By the time we got the next phone the standard plug connectors were more widespread.

Maybe I’m imagining it. But I definitely remember phones being hard-wired into the phone line as you describe.


me too (though on the other side of the Channel).

telephone connectors looked like this, often even sealed by the Bundespost

the current accessible plug was introduced late in the 80s, iirc.


Yeah, I remember the only phone we had in the 70s didn’t have a modular plug, and was rented from and installed by the phone company. Looked just like this:

Most distinctive thing about it was the ring. Rather than the usual harsh metallic school-bell noise, it had a rather mellifluous two-tone “ding dong” chime, similar to a doorbell but also somehow distinct. My mother loved that feature.


Interesting! I definitely remember these:

Which were so rarely unplugged that as a child I thought they were permanent. However there were loads of different hard-wired circuits used in the UK, with a wide variety of wiring diagrams required. We only standardised our connection in 1981, which took several years to roll out (the reason was that by standardising the connector, the government gave up the monopoly on phone provision and installation. Now you can buy all kinds of shit phones, instead of the one good phone (in several colours) that the GPO/BT used to provide! Now, the phones that the government used to give us are sold for much more than their original value. Ah, progress.

Incidentally, the faceplate of the socket is the point at which responsibility passes to the homeowner. Presumably when the phone was permanently installed and rented to the user, this also fell to the GPO/BT to maintain.


“Please press 1 to launch ICBM counter strike” … Dang …


Back in the day when I was at university I got a visit from someone who is now a climate science denying member of the peerage. He asked if he could make a phone call (rotary phone) and proceeded to dial by repeatedly pulsing the hangup button as you describe. He appeared to be under the impression that if you used the dial to make a call it was charged, but if you dialled by pressing the hangup button, you weren’t.

This is what an education in the Classics gets you.


I can be fairly sure this is incorrect. I was involved, as one of my jobs, with static, ceraunic and EMP protection of POTS for about ten years, and any static accumulation on a handset would be as nothing compared to what hits those overhead wires between handset and exchange. A bakelite handset would laugh at your puny carpet-induced discharge.


And here we are, calling it a dial. We need to get this on tape.


Another James May series I didn’t know about?
Well, I know what I’ll be watching this evening.


I think this worked for payphones back in the day.


Interesting. I can probably add theft to the long list of things this guy did to annoy me over the years. I hope I outlive him so I can write a memoir.


As I said “Don’t quote me” but I do remember connecting an antenna wire to the stop and greatly increasing my reception. Of course I was a wee lad futzing with a crystal radio kit.


I was referring to ESP, not grounding the stop.
POTS uses SELV, basically about 54V floating, with various bits of circuit protection in the line, so it wouldn’t kill you except under circumstances very hard to achieve. But it is possible your improved crystal set reception was because you were using the overhead wire as the antenna - kind of ADSL in reverse.


That day was the 1960s, then? Or even earlier?

When we were in school, people used to claim that. Never found a payphone in Germany which did work with this. The only Teilnehmer you could call, it turned out, had short numbers. 110 and 112, to be precise.

And hell, did we run.