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Automatic Electric Company Model 40 Telephone
Many years ago, while on a hike in the woods with my family, we found this old telephone abandoned and forgotten. Probably a kids' plaything that was left to rot when they grew up. We took it home and I cleaned it up and put a modern jack on the end, and it still worked!
For many years we used it as a spare phone in our basement, and then it was lost again for some time. When my dad was troubleshooting a phone problem at his house recently, he unplugged all his regular modern phones and used the bare wires on this one to test the circuit out at the demarc box. It turns out to have been the forces of entropy at play, over 25 years one of the wires in his old simple-style demarc box had come loose and fallen off. His demarc box wasn't one of the modern ones with a convenient RJ-11 jumper jack, so he had to use this old phone as a crude lineman's set.
Long story short, I got the phone back from him and have it in my study now. It's a work of machining art, all carefully lathed brass worm gears and sprockets and delicate contact-switches.
It even still has a little paper slip glued inside with the circuit diagram and helpful configuration and troubleshooting notes. ("If bells tap when dialing from another telephone on the line reverse connections at term. 5 and L2.")
I took some photos to share with the world this glorious piece of telecommunications history. You can buy them in different conditions on eBay and such, I've seen them from $25 to $200. I'm not selling mine. I plan to put a new modular adapter on it again and use it as my backup phone in the library/study. All my fancy 2.4Ghz digital cordless phones are worthless when the power goes out -- not this baby. I might even buy an Sipura SPA-2000 VOIP adapter to plug it into so I can use it on my office VOIP phone system. There's something very retro, very Max Headroom and Steampunk about having this classic old telephone hooked up and working beautifully on a digital internet VOIP telephony system. Probably sounds better than any modern telephone, but I doubt the SPA-2000 understands pulse dialing, now that I think about it.
For those interested in it, here are some other useful links that I found while researching it:
Automatic Electric (nee Strowger, then GTE, then Verizon!) Telephone Models at Collectorville.com
Classic phones at OldRadioParts.com (they have a refurbed #40 for $188!)
More Automatic Electric Model 40 info from Telephone Collectors Library (including a PDF scan of the paper insert!)
Another scan of the diagram from The Telephone History Web Site