New phone guy meets Old Phone Guy

At a flea market earlier in the year, my mother picked up a Northern Electric (Western Electric’s Canadian counterpart) 302 telephone, manufactured in August 1948, for $20. She gave it to me during a recent visit and I set out to make it work on my home Asterisk setup.

The short of it is, it’s functional. I needed to replace the line and handset cords and give the thing a thorough cleaning, but it works. That is to say, it gets a dial tone from my analog telephone adapter and I can answer calls on it. The ringer is extremely weak as I think my ATA only supports about 2, maybe 2.5 REN and the 302 probably needs about that much current to ring the bells. I had thought that a 302 would be 1 REN but maybe this wasn’t standardized until the 500 set.

What to do about the rotary dial? I’ll buy a pulse-to-tone converter or wire up an inline keypad if I want to get creative–or find a Digium IAXy ATA, now discontinued–but until then, I have a workaround. Some time ago, a friend gave me an old Sharp organizer, the kind that stores a couple hundred names and phone numbers and plays touch tones into your handset for “speed dialing.” He found it in a drawer and gave it to me as a joke. Switch it to manual mode and I now have a dialer for my antique phone.

There are lots of resources on the web for people who want to fix up antique phones. I’m not an antiques person but I’m having fun with this little project and will keep my eyes open for more analog goodness in the future. Oldphoneguy is a great resource for restoring and wiring up old phones to work on modern lines. And Bell System Memorial, which I mentioned in an earlier blog post, has some great historical information.