The 70s Are Calling To Shed Some Light

Remember when phones didn’t all look the same? We had a good thing going in the early cell phone days, which seemed like a brief holdover from the Western Electric (et. al) era where you could get a phone that suited your inner minimalist or princess, and choose the color to boot.

[Dubchinsky] found a beautiful phone from this bygone era and saved it from one of two likely fates — the landfill, or else a life languishing as a piece of vintage technology that’s just sitting around for looks. Instead, this phone found a second calling as a lovely desk lamp with secret goose neck flexibility. The lamp itself is an inexpensive LED module from ebay that’s wired up to mains power through a push button switch in the phone’s base.

We absolutely love that [Dubchinsky] wrapped the curly cord around the goose neck, but were a bit disappointed that he didn’t use the hook switch to turn the lamp on and off. In the comments, he says that the plastic felt like it was too brittle to stand up to repeated actuation of such a heavy switch. That’s understandable. [Dubchinsky] also thought about using the rotary dial as a dimmer, and we think that’s a bright idea.

Between the guide, the pictures, and the build process video after the break, this is pretty much a complete how-to. We think that is commendable given that [Dubchinsky] is selling these lamps on etsy.

Do ya miss spinning the rotary dial and long for somewhat simpler days? Hook your finger into this rotary cell phone.

24 thoughts on “The 70s Are Calling To Shed Some Light

  1. [homer simpson wearing leather jacket with tweed elbow patches].. Correction Marge, I ruined TWO perfectly good jackets! [/homer simpson wearing leather jacket with tweed elbow patches]

    1. I always wondered if Homer’s stupidity was just being ‘extra-meta’ in that scene since you could just cut more leather out of the (already ruined) leather jacket to replace the holes/elbow patches and (effectively) ‘fix’ the tweed jacket. (Homer’s so dumb he didn’t realize that the tweed jacket could still be returned to its intended use despite his actions.)

  2. I actually think phones would be better if they came in one of a few completely standard form factors with a back expansion connector like the PinePhone, with hardly any variation at all.

    Aesthetics shouldn’t be tightly coupled to technology if it’s possible to avoid, and the fewer phone designs, the more case options you have. What a phone looks or feels like doesn’t really matter, it’s all about the case. No reason to even advertise the bare phones, just make some really awesome official cases and use those in all your marketing.

    But apparently there’s enough crazy daredevils using unprotected phones that it’s still a supported application.

  3. I’d hook the rotary dial up to a CD4017 (depending on how the reset works I might not even need to modify the rotary dial at all) to use as a dimmer. Either to shape a PWM signal or to turn on one LED per increment.
    (would also be awesome to look at the light get brighter and brighter while the dial rotates back)
    Sorry. I have way too many CD4017s and looking for stuff to do with them and here is finally not a clock and not a running light.
    (uhh forgot about debounce…)

    1. There might even be a market for a device to put between phone and jack to convert pulse dial to tone dial, since people are fixing up vintage phones these days but most VoIP boxes only handle tone.

      1. Back in time, people simply used DTMF hand senders (correct English term?).
        These were small little devices with a keypad (0-9,#,*) and a built in speaker. You held it against the microphone part of the phone and dialed your number via keypad.
        These little gadgets were often used to remote control answering machines, I believe.

        What’s more troublesome nowadays.. Modern landline replacements are too weak to drive a vintage phone’s bell. They were made with electronic buzzers in mind.

      2. Really? I just checked and my cheapo Grandstream HT802 ATA offers pulse dialing and even let’s you pick General, New Zealand, or Swedish standard. I thought they’d all do it.

        1. That’s a nice feature set for a cheapo unit. Many people are stuck with what is supplied/supported by their VoIP provider, particularly if it’s also their ISP and it’s built into the modem. However, some of those built into modem ones, also come with a large lithium battery to keep both “up” during power outages.

  4. “Remember when phones didn’t all look the same? ”

    That sentence made me smile. For a number of years that phone he used in his build had been the only model the national operator in Germany offered. So phones looked all the same ;-)

    1. West-Germany, you meant to say, didn’t you? ;)
      Back then, we als had our beloved frenemies in GDR (DDR)..
      Also, you could still have different colors.
      Some people also made protective “clothes” for their phones, or so I heard.

  5. “Do ya miss spinning the rotary dial and long for somewhat simpler days?”

    Nope! But it’s ok to feel that way. We all go through stages of irrational nostalgia as we get older. But I already went through that one. It was a long time ago now. Long enough that I still had a landline but not so long ago that rotary dials were common. I found one in a thrift shop and thought it would be cool to put in the livingroom.

    The key is to recognize how irrational it is.

    Now it wasn’t like I had never experienced a rotary phone before. We had pulse dial at home when I was a young kid. I don’t remember having an actual rotary dial at home but I certainly used them many times at various relatives houses. And it was normal, it was what I knew.

    Several years later, using one again after getting accustomed to touch tones and even instant cellphone click-a-name dialing and a rotary phone is a very different experience. It’s excruciating! They are so sloooooow! And then there’s when you get 5 digits in, start to rush and don’t quite take the dial back all the way to the stop and so get the wrong number… Yuck!

    If you find yourself nostalgic for a rotary dial and feel the need to start hacking one into your voip box or cellphone here’s my suggestion to you. If you still have a landline see if you can switch your phone to pulse mode. If not then try writing a cellphone app that lets you press a contact then it clicks at you for three minutes before finally with a 1/3 to 2/3 probability calling either a wrong number or the contact for you. If after a week you still think you want a rotary dial then go for it.

  6. I bought a rotary phone at a garage sale for $0.10 a couple of decades ago.
    When I tried to use it, no one could hear me speaking.
    I was looking into various repair scenarios while I left it connected in the shop (it has a loud ring) and would answer calls with another phone.
    Last year I discovered it was using a 2 wire cable to connect the handset to main unit. ( a 4 wire cable was needed!)

  7. Why use a heavy pushbutton on/off switch? Put a lever microswitch inside for the ‘hook’ to depress. To use the dial for a dimmer while maintaining maximum phone-i-ness, keep the spring return for the dial but add a potentiometer or optical encoder so that it (a programmable microcontroller) sets the brightness by how far the dial is turned. With a metal finger stop it could have a capacitive switch to detect when the dial turning is complete. Or use that to turn the lamp on. Hang up the receiver to shut it off.

  8. Could operate on a battery that is charged from stray voltage tapped fro ma bell, plugs into telephone jack. I’d dial “0” to turn off and use the other pulses to set brightness.
    Using the reciever as a desk-top bluetooth stereo speaker was a genius idea, on-hook is off, off hook would be speaker on.

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