Directory Dials the Phone (Jan, 1947)

Directory Dials the Phone

A NEW desk telephone directory not only finds the number you want but actually dials it for you. All you have to do is slide the knob on the face of the device, called an Auto Dial, to the name you want, then press the small lever at the foot of the machine. When the lever returns to its normal position, in five or six seconds, your call is made and you pick up the phone.

The Auto Dial was invented by a German before the war. The only sample in this country is owned by Alfred Altman, President of the National Dairymen Association. The machine can handle any 50 telephone numbers desired by the user, and changes can be made at will.

The signals can be made up of any number of letters and digits, according to the system used in the local exchange. The regular hand dial on the telephone can be used in the ordinary way when the automatic device has been attached.

  1. jayessell says: June 4, 20088:23 am

    How would you program it? With tinsnips?
    Were the numbers shorter in 1947?
    XXX-XXXX for example.
    That’s a maximum of 70 pulses.

    Who’s Mahogany? (#3)

  2. Neil Russell says: June 4, 20089:00 am

    Diana Ross?
    Wonder if Pam Grier’s number is on there too?

  3. Benzene says: June 4, 20089:02 am

    They probably had a special punch for making the disks. Does it read the edge of the disk or the side? The edges look identical in that photo.

  4. Neil Russell says: June 4, 20089:03 am

    One other note, that Western Electric 302 phone was redesigned for 1947 and the one I have works just as well today as it did when my dad got it for his shop in Indianapolis way back then.
    It still has the “Chapel 1” prefix tag in the center of the dial, something I just can’t bring myself to ever change!

  5. Aaron T. says: June 4, 200810:14 am

    #1 jayessell: I think that’s “Mahoney”.

  6. konshuss says: June 4, 200810:25 am

    wow, what a piece of crap. you can pick up a cellphone these days that is many times smaller and store hundreds if not thousands more numbers in it. yeesh, talk about obselete!

  7. Alan J. Richer says: June 4, 20081:57 pm

    Re: Obsolete:

    Considering this was well pre-semiconductor it’s an interesting bit of work. Hardly a piece of crap, and technology that was used in many forms up till the mid-1970s and later for auto-dialing in a lot of different applications.

    It talks about the disks being clipped to program them what it’s likely doing is just pulsing the line with a set of contacts actuated by the saw teeth. The one photographed may not have been programmed and was a demo unit, explaining the pristine state of its contact wheels.

    A fun reach back, though… -Alan

  8. StanFlouride says: June 5, 20081:38 am

    I have seen old appliance timers that work like this, the wheels had notched teeth that were scored so you just bent them out til they broke off.

    We have a Western Electric 211 wall telephone… the hardware store where I work that still works great (though since we can’t put people on hold we rarely use it).
    During a recent power outage, when none of konshuss’ wonderful modern cell phones worked, it was still there and working fine.

  9. Toronto says: June 5, 20089:19 pm

    Years later, either PopSci or PopMech published plans for an auto-dialer built as part of a cottage alarm system (I think that was it.) It used a toy truck tire with paper-clip wire bars of varying lenght stuck in it to represent the digits. I think it was electrically read. There was Goldbergesque attachment to release the hook plunger to get online, but the best part was the moving ‘finger’ that dialed the actual mechanical dial. Why the didn’t use a relay on the line? Did Bell get that much more aggressive about no-System equipment in the time between 1947 and then?

  10. cks2008 says: June 6, 20089:14 am

    Yes, before the 1980s when AT&T had to let customer owned equipment on their lines, they didn’t look well at those that modified their instruments or wiring.

  11. peter de zweter says: June 7, 200812:57 pm

    i have one like this here in belgium. I think it would still work if i had the right cables. Note that the dialing happens completely mechanical! It seems like you couldn’nt replace the disks yourself and had to contact the manufacterer.

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