Simplify Your Life With This Pocket Rotary Cellphone

With its constant siren song of distraction and endless opportunity for dopamine hits, a smartphone can cause more problems than it solves. The simple solution would be a no-nonsense flip phone, but that offers zero points for style. So why not build your own rotary dial pocket cellphone?

Of course, what style points accrue to [Justine Haupt] take a hit in terms of practicality, but that was never really the point of this build. And even then, the phone appears to be surprisingly useful. It’s based on the rotary dial from a Trimline phone, which itself was an epic hack back in 1965 when it was introduced. The 3D-printed case contains an ATmega2560V microcontroller and an Adafruit FONA 3G cell module, while a flexible mono eInk display adorns the outside. Some buttons, a folding SMA antenna, and some LEDs for signal strength and battery level complete the build, which easily slips into a pocket. The dial can be used not only to dial the phone but to control the speaker volume; in practice, [Justine] mainly uses the speed dial buttons to make calls, though.

We’ve seen rotary phones converted to cell before, but this one is a next-level integration of the retro and the modern. It’s simple, intuitive, and distraction-free, and best of all, it’s a great excuse not to return a text.

Thanks to [J. Peterson] for the tip.

38 thoughts on “Simplify Your Life With This Pocket Rotary Cellphone

      1. I particularly like the “pager-style” display of the missed call. So she could put this in a pocket in her purse, and see who just called simply by looking in without having to remove the phone.

        A very nice design.

      1. Not sure I understand why you two are commenting about New Hampshire (the phone’s maker seems to be from upstate New York, not NH), but as a lifelong NH resident I can tell you that telephones are very much a part of a typical NH resident’s life, along with artificial lighting, oil furnaces, automobiles, and even that new-fangled television!

        We’re not quite the hicks that some people seem to think. 😜

      2. They sold all their crank ones to Bryant Pond, Maine. :-)

        And I think the network in rural Vt/NH/ME is slowly being allowed to deteriorate by the company created to oversee its demise (Fairpoint). Sad, but understandable. There’s just no money in providing wired telephone service any more.

        1. I’ve been told that in some developing countries where wired telephone service never existed, if you want “wired” service to your home, they put a cellular terminal unit on the nearest utility pole and run a wire from that to your house.

          1. thank you!
            now i know what to call the project im working on;
            cellular terminal unit!

            i was going to call it a portable landline or mobile landline as it will fit into a pocket and contain batteries.

        1. Yes, I believe that’s what [Dan] was referring to as a hack. The hack was that the finger stop rotates with the dial far enough that the dial moves as far as it does on a full-size dial when dialing “1”, without the need for the gap between the “1” finger hole and the finger stop that the full-size dials have, so the dial could be smaller without making the holes smaller.

  1. Interesting. :-)

    No, I don’t miss the rotary phone we had much too long. Rotary phone on shared line, no sockets, no (legal) possibility to connect a cordless phone or a modem until in the 1990ies. Ok, one nice gag: you could make the called phone emit a “bim-bim-bim..” sound when using the dial while the other phone was already ringing. But quickly of ending fun.

    1. “Rotary phone on shared line, no sockets, no (legal) possibility to connect a cordless phone or a modem until in the 1990ies.”

      When I was at Arizona State in the early 80s I had a 300baud (yeah I’m old) direct connect modem. I ended up buying an RJ11 jack from Radio Shack, cracking open my dorm room wall phone (rotary dial) and wiring it across the phoneline so’s I could use my computer to dial into the Engineering college’s PDP-11. :D

    1. Verizon had notified us at work that they were going to kill the last of their 3G cells at the end of November 2019, but they postponed the turndown for a year after tons of customers with old data-gathering stuff out in the field gave them hella pushback.

  2. Around 20 to 25 years ago, a friend’s father was in the city for a medical. Since he’d made the trip all the way to the city, he thought he may as well look around. Ended up at the telephone museum. He was looking at their oldest phone, one with a crank on the side. Since there wasn’t exactly a lot of people there, the attendant asked him if he’d seen one before. He said yes, he had one at home in his kitchen. The attendant asked him where he got it. From the phone company; it’s the house phone. He was offered, and accepted, a new phone in exchange for the one in his kitchen. They were out to the small town the next week to do the exchange.

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