Garbage disposal New York team finds vintage rotary phone in Chelsea apartment clean out
I found this vintage rotary dial phone from the 1960s a few weeks ago, just sitting on a shelf in the bedroom closet of a Chelsea apartment. The phone is dated 3/64 and is a model 500, making it extra heavy — at least a good three pounds, about 12 times the weight of a smartphone today.
We all learned in school that the phone was invented by Alexander Graham Bell, but there are a variety of other inventors who have received credit for the device: Charles Bourseul, Antonio Meucci, Johann Philipp Reis and Elisha Gray.
In 1876, Bell was awarded the first U.S. patent for the telephone, which was described as an “apparatus for transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically.” The first phone ever was installed in 1878 in New Haven, Conn. The way it would work was the person doing the calling would pick up the phone, light a signal lamp on the operator’s panel, and then the operator would answer, “patching” the caller through to the person she was trying to call. Calls took as long as two hours—just to connect.
But that all change with the welcoming of the rotary phone, a vintage version of which I found in Chelsea. The first rotary phone came along in 1892 in La Porte, Ind., but that was only because it hadn’t worked earlier. Starting in 1879, people were filing more than 25 patents for a variety of different dials and buttons, but they were either too costly or too complicated.
And although the first use of the dial phone was in 1892, it wasn’t until 1919 that their use spread across the nation because the American Bell Telephone Company began country-wide service for rotary dial phones.
It’s amazing how technology has changed over the years. Back then, you had to wait so long just to be connected to say a few words over the phone. It took three people to make the two-person phone call: The two people who wanted to get in touch, and the operator who put them there. Now, with just a few taps of your smartphone screen, you can get a message to someone in seconds. And the changes I get to see from past to present are one of the main reasons I love this job.
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