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Re: Beckfoot phones was Re: Beckfoot Plumbing

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Posted by Alan Hakim on January 15, 2021 at 10:43:29 user awhakim.

In Reply to: Beckfoot phones was Re: Beckfoot Plumbing posted by Adam Quinan on January 05, 2021 at 03:55:53:

Dial telephones began to be installed in the UK in the 1930s, especially in London. They drew their power from the exchange. Before dialling was installed, as in Fellside, you had to pick up your phone, which would light a lamp on your circuit in the exchange. The theory (which didn't seem to work) was that rattling the phone cradle like Capt Flint did would make your exchange lamp flash, and distract the operator from her knitting.
Before that, a house phone had its own local battery to power the microphone, and a generator handle to ring the exchange. That caused a flap on the exchange to drop to indicate the calling line, and with luck it also set off a buzzer. The operator than plugged in her cord to speak to you, and reset the flap by hand.
I was in charge of military telephones in Paphos (Cyprus) on the day it converted from this hand-powered system to full dialling. Effectively, the old circuits were cut off completely at the moment of changeover, and the dial phone was then the only way to go from that instant.
There seemed to be a British tradition for many years that a house would have only one phone, and it would be in the coldest part of the house. Perhaps because many calls were charged by time, so you wouldn't freeze for long.
My parents' exchange was still manual even though only 10 miles from central London. So when reading AR, I understood from experience how his phones worked. For outgoing calls, you had to pick up the phone and wait (or rattle it). Calling from the rest of London, fully modernised, you dialled GRI (our exchange prefix) and waited .......

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