When we make a telephone call in 2020 it is most likely to be made using a smartphone over a cellular or IP-based connection rather than a traditional instrument on a pair of copper wires to an exchange. As we move inexorably towards a wireless world in which the telephone line serves only as a vehicle for broadband Internet, it’s easy to forget the last hundred years or more of telephone technology that led up to the present.
In a manner of speaking though, your telephone wall socket hasn’t forgotten. If you like old phones, you can still have one, and picture yourself in a 1950s movie as you twirl the handset cord round your finger while you speak. Continue reading “A Vintage Phone In 2020”→
[Editor’s note: There’s an ongoing back-and-forth about this “spyware” right now. We haven’t personally looked into it on any phones, and decoded Wireshark caps of what the cleaner software sends home seem to be lacking — it could be innocuous. We’re leaving our original text as-run below, but you might want to take this with a grain of salt until further evidence comes out. Or keep us all up to date in the comments. But be wary of jumping to quick conclusions.]
This software in question is a “storage cleaner” in the “Device Care” section of the phone, which is supposed to handle file optimization and deletion. This particular application is made by a Chinese company called Qihoo 360 and can’t be removed from the phone without using ADB or having root. The company is known for exceptionally bad practices concerning virus scanning, and the software has been accused of sending all information about files on the phone to servers in China, which could then turn all of the data it has over to the Chinese government. This was all discovered through the use of packet capture and osint, which are discussed in the post.
These revelations came about recently on Reddit from [kchaxcer] who made the original claims. It seems to be fairly legitimate at this point as well, and another user named [GeorgePB] was able to provide a temporary solution/workaround in the comments on the original post. It’s an interesting problem that probably shouldn’t exist on any phone, let alone a flagship phone competing with various iPhones, but it does highlight some security concerns we should all have with our daily use devices when we can’t control the software on the hardware that we supposedly own. There are some alternatives though if you are interested in open-source phones.
It’s hard not to feel the constant pull on our limited attention from the very interesting rectangles in our pockets and packs. [Antoine Pintout] is fighting against it with three interesting pendants.
The three objects each have functions. Sablier, tells time, but rather than giving the numerals it vibrates on a set interval to give a relative sense of the passage. Boussole is a compass like device which doesn’t tell the cardinal directions. Instead it tells you which way to go in order to get to a pre-set location. The last, Sifflet, is a pager, but rather than sending a text it plays a melody reflecting the sender’s mood.
We love the look of the objects. The circuits are beautifully laid out and showcased in well machined brass cases. Small details abound; in Sifflet for example, the coil antenna is symmetrically presented with its own cutout in the board. Laying out a board is hard enough, but taking this much care in component placement easily doubles the time.
All the files and models are available, though we’re not sure we possess the craftsmanship to reproduce these to the same standard.
Not every piece of technology or software can succeed, even with virtually unlimited funding and marketing. About the same number of people are still playing Virtual Boys as are using Google Plus, for example. In recent memory, the Windows Phone occupies the same space as these infamous failures, potentially because it was late to the smartphone game but primarily because no one wanted to develop software for it. But now, you can run Android apps on Windows Phones now. (Google Translate from German)
To be clear, this doesn’t support all Android apps or all Windows Phones, and it will take a little bit of work to get it set up at all. But if you still have one laying around you might want to go grab it. First you’ll need to unlock the phone, and then begin sending a long string of commands to the device which sends the required software to the device. If that works, you can begin loading Android apps on the phone via a USB connection to a PC.
This hack came to us via Windows Central and Reddit. It seems long and involved but if you have any experience with a command line you should be fine. It’s an interesting way to get some more use out of your old Windows Phone if it’s just gathering dust in a closet somewhere. If not, don’t worry; Windows Phones were rare even when they were at their most popular. We could only find one project in our archives that uses one, and that was from 2013.
The first LED digital wristwatches hit the market in the 1970s. They required a button push to turn the display on, prompting one comedian to quip that giving one to a one-armed man would be in poor taste. While the UIs of watches and other wearables have improved since then, smartphones still present some usability challenges. Some of the touch screen gestures needed to operate a phone, like pinching, are nigh impossible when one-handing the phone, and woe unto those with stubby thumbs when trying to take a selfie.
You’d think that the fleet of sensors and the raw computing power on board would afford better ways to control phones. And you’d be right, if the modular mechanical input widgets described in a paper from Columbia University catch on. Dubbed “Vidgets” by [Chang Xiao] et al, the haptic devices are designed to create characteristic acceleration profiles on a phone’s inertial measurement unit (IMU) when actuated. Vidgets take various forms, from push buttons to scroll wheels, each of a similar size and shape and designed to dock into one of eight positions on the back of a 3D-printed phone case. Once trained, the algorithm watches for the acceleration signature caused by actuating a Vidget, and sends commands to the phone to mimic the corresponding gestures. The video below demonstrates a couple of use cases, of which the virtual saxophone is our favorite.
You’ve seen a landline phone converted into a Bluetooth headset. There’s nothing new there. It’s great for confusing kids when asking them to dial a rotary phone, but that’s about it. It’s the same phone, built by Ma Bell for fifty years, converted with a little Bluetooth breakout board.
You’ve never seen a landline conversion like this. This is [Alessandro]’s Bluetooth-converted Beocom 600, complete with a drop-in replacement circuit board that turns this beautiful Bang & Olufsen design into a useful device for the smartphone era.
This phone was designed as Bang & Olufsen’s entry into phone design, and we’re shocked, simply shocked, that Apple hasn’t tried to lift this design yet. Unfortunately, it’s designed for landlines, making it horrifically inconvenient to take to Starbucks. That’s where the Bluetooth comes in, and [Alessandro]’s custom board that is meant to replace the guts of this vintage phone. Honestly, with Bluetooth modules it’s probably easier to deal with that instead of a telephone line.
Right now, the work is concentrated on the user interface, which means taking apart and mapping the pinout of the buttons. This keypad is plastic over rubber domes contacting a polyester sheet with contacts, feeding out to a ribbon cable. It’s fantastic work and finally some of the best design out there will be brought into the modern era.
Rotary dial phones have a certain romantic charm about them; something never quite captured in the post-Touch Tone era. With landline phone services less popular than ever, these old workhorses aren’t really cut out for daily use anymore. However, with a modern brain transplant, they can still get the job done just fine.
[Xabier Zubizarreta] has undertaken to retrofit his FeTAp-611 rotary phone with a Bluetooth rig, allowing it to be used with smartphones to place and receive calls. A Raspberry Pi Zero W serves as the brains of the operation, chosen for its compact size and onboard Bluetooth and WiFi. Getting the Pi to work effectively with an Android phone as a Bluetooth audio device requires some trickery, but it’s nothing that can’t be fixed by custom compiling a few off-the-shelf tools. [Xabier]’s next big hurdle is finding a tidy way to generate a 30 VAC signal to drive the original ringer, something that proves difficult for most similar projects.
We love to see these telecommunication relics kept ticking, so if you happen to be building a vintage telephone exchange in your garden shed – be sure to let us know.