After our discussion yesterday morning about mobile phones for your children, we got to talking about phones in general and the way things in this country have changed in 50 years.

In the mid sixties, if you’d suggested that everyone would have their own mobile phone device people would have said you were crazy.

I grew up in a little country town in Western Australia. When you wanted to make a phone call you had to turn the handle on a phone like this.

crank handle phoneThere was no dial. You had to pick up the phone and wind the crank handle until the operator picked up. You’d then tell them what number you wanted and they’d plug you through. This was less than 50 years ago.  It’s difficult to believe that this was the case in a town only 100kms from Perth….but it was.

My Mum told me that the local phone operators would often listen to the phone conversations…because they could.  Not sure that they really could have been bothered.

Some of my friends who lived on farms had to deal with party lines whereby 2 or 3 families shared the same ingoing and outgoing line.

I can remember as a child visiting my Grandmother in Perth and being blown away by her ‘modern’ phone. I was astounded at the concept of being able to just pick up the phone and dial anyone. When I used one of these phones I felt like I was in a movie.

dial phone

Nobody dreamt of text messages. The internet was something from a science fiction movie.

How things have changed.

What are your early phone memories.

Andrew emailed me with this

 Can you remember when you had got first girl friend and you wanted to talk privately on the old cord land line phone, you would stretch the cord to near snapping to find the furthest distance away from pricked ears, generally down the hall way as the phone would sit on a “telephone table” in that area.
On the old pay phones I had a mate that would go around and stuff paper up the coin return shute and then do his rounds at the end of the day and collect peoples lost return money, the cheek!
ah the good old days!

And Errol shared this with us.

Mark: As a teenager I was a ‘night’ telephonist (11pm – 6am) at a small telephone exchange in western NSW. The ‘party line’ to which your Mother probably referred to was a line for rural subscribers and the telephonist used a morse code letter after the number to ring individual people on the line. For example if there were say 15 people on the ‘party line’ and the line number was say 140, then the telephonist would ring 140 and then the morse code signal for the letter of the alphabet issued to each individual subscriber on the 140 line…say for 140R the signal would be: dot dash dot (one short ring, one long ring and then one short ring). Each person on that line would hear the ring and identify their particular call ring to answer….and yes, everyone else on the line could pick up the phone and listen if they were so inclined. We also had a phone that you had to ring with a handle to contact the exchange – who then put your call through. Telephonists would by necessity would ‘go across’ the line to ensure that each call was in fact properly connected; and more importantly to ascertain when the call had finished, so that the line could be disconnected. It was a monitoring process, rather than ‘listening in’ to a call – although the telephonist could do that if they wished…but generally they were too busy for that.