Re-installing a TouchTone keypad in an ASR-33

Ethan Dicks ethan.dicks at
Wed May 20 14:56:07 CDT 2009

On Wed, May 20, 2009 at 2:47 PM, Tony Duell <ard at> wrote:
>> Given that the switch to IC-based tone generators looks to be around
>> 1982, before the breakup of Ma Bell, I'd say that there are few phones
>> in thrift stores here of that vintage any more.  Maybe at an estate
>> sale from someone who hasn't moved in 25 years.
> Were rotary dial 'phones still being made after the breakup? Of the 4 US
> phones I found in the junk shop [1], 3 of the were rotary dial types (as
> I said, including this multi-line model 564 or something)

I couldn't say for certain, but even into the 1990s, the phone company
charged $1-$2USD/month for TouchTone service.  Mostly by then, it was
just a surcharge applied to your bill for their convenience.  When I
got a data line for UUCP around 1990 or so, I told them "no extras" -
no call-waiting, no three-way-calling, no speed-dial, and no
TouchTone.  They tried to persuade me to get their profit-laden
features, but they really balked at setting me up a pulse-dial line.
I suggested that if it wasn't an option that could be canceled, then
perhaps they were exceeding the rates set by agreement with the Public
Utilities Commission.  They acquiesced.  I did have to patch the UUCP
dialer program (I was calling from an Amiga and didn't have the right
compiler environment to build from source) because you could _not_
pick pulse dial from L.sys because the app had "ATDT" hard-coded.  A
quick change to ATDP and it was happy.

> [1] It called itself an antique shop, but many of the items on sale were
> well under 100 years old.

I learned on my first visit that in the UK, a hundred miles is a long
way, but in the US, a hundred years is a long time *(I stayed in the
"New Buildings" at New College - "new" because they were built by
Queen Victoria and dedicated, like so many things, to Albert's memory.
 A building that age at home would be nearly as old as the State I'm
from).  For us, "antique" has a substantially smaller scale than for
you.  OTOH, I've driven over 1,000 miles in a weekend (closer to 1,200
miles), to buy a PDP-8/S, FWIW.

Here's another datapoint on the timescale difference - when was at
Oxford in the 1980s, we were told that "current events" (as opposed to
"history") encompassed pretty much anything more recent than the death
of Queen Victoria (i.e., about 75 years or so).  At home, at the same
time, "current events" encompassed anything since the end of the
Vietnam War (around 10 years or so).

Anecdotally, I'd estimate the interpretation of the phrase "not that
old" to be around 6:1 to 10:1 if spoken by someone from the UK
compared to spoken by someone from most of the US (allowing for
regional variation in New England, being the older part of the US).

>> If you have access to lift the faceplate, look for a part number
>> starting in '35' and a manufacturing date prior to 1982.  You don't
>> want a part number starting with '72'.*
> You are joking, right? I am not going to be able to dismantle a 'phone
> before buying it. In fact finding US phones over here is non-trivial.

I am not joking in the slightest.  I'm not suggesting you try this
without the cooperation/permission of the seller, but you can either
pop the faceplate out the front (and with a wee flat-blade screwdriver
on the clip at the top, pop it back in), or just loosen the two screws
and unmate the base from the top.  The date is easily visible as a
NN-MM month and year number, and the part number is in the same color
paint and visible from the same orientation (near the buttons on the
face of the dial).

There might also be a stamped manufacturing date on the bottom, but I
couldn't give you any specific guidance about format.

If it's an ITT or other non-Western Electric phone, I'd wager it's
IC-based.  AFAIK, only the W-E phones (i.e., pre-breakup) would have
the 1-transistor-2-coil keypad.


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