One type of gadget that has had a surprising surge in popularity lately has been the retro style telephone. It’s surprising not because they aren’t cool or stylish – they most certainly are – but because so many youngsters are deeply into their high tech iPhones and other Smartphones, it’s quite amazing that they would ever consider something “low-tech” and a touch old fashioned.
But it is exactly that reason that these retor phones have lots of appeal. So below we have given a little run down of some of the old style vintage and retro phones that you might come across.
Until the early 1980s, if you had or wanted a telephone in your home, you would most likely have had a GPO telephone. GPO stood for General Post Office, and they had the monopoly over the supply of telephones in the United Kingdom until 1982. However, these phones were not bought outright; they were rented out to the ‘subs’, as the GPO knew them, which was short for subscribers. Not only was the phone rented, but the wiring and connection was too, which ran to a distribution point that was more often than not at the top of the nearest telegraph pole.
GPO phones started with the ‘candlestick’ model, which was tall and slim, with a daffodil-shaped transmitter and a trumpet-style mouthpiece. Originally, there was no way to dial with these phones; connection to another phone happened via the operator. But later models had dial pieces fitted. As these were the first models of these styles of phones, they are an extremely valuable and collectable item today. Prices for originals go for upwards of £275. However, if that’s a bit steep, reproductions can be found for around £30.
In 1934, the 232 type, or Bakelite type, was mass produced, and is much more in keeping with how we expect old phones to look like. That is, the classic receiver handset, which rests on a box-like base, that are connected with a corkscrew wire. These kinds were much more user friendly, and so despite a few reworkings, this model became the staple aesthetic for phones well into the 1950s, and some were even still being produced as late as the 1970s. For a good-quality, collectable vintage 232 phone, you’d be looking to pay around £250. However, you can get originals that are not as great looking from as cheap as £50.
The 711 design was the first GPO phone to have wall-mounting capabilities. These telephones were produced in 1961, and were internally wired. Instead of the receiver being placed directly on the top, like the previous design, it was moved towards the back. For the next few years, it was only really the case design and colours that changed.
All of the designs since the 232 type had come with traditional dials. But in the 70s, push-button phones were created. After a few teething problems (post-dialling delay due to connection errors), these became a more popular choice due to the time saved whilst dialling.
The design radically changed again in 1982 with the advent of the Statesman. The receiver was placed vertically to the left of the push-button dial. This was the first GPO phone available to buy rather than rent.
If you’d like to purchase your own GPO telephone, make sure you have a good look around. If you want to buy something collectable and vintage, and of a high quality, you are going to have to make an investment of hundreds of pounds. However, some original, hundred-year-old models can be found for cheaper, but you’ll compromise on its quality. And don’t forget, it may not work!