Join 3,369 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The cellphone goes really retro
July 7, 2011 11:54 AM   Subscribe

The Portable Rotary Phone is an original black rotary-dial phone that has been modified to be a cellular phone.
posted by storybored (51 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
...all you need now is to carry around a grandfather clock to keep track of your call minutes.
posted by storybored at 11:55 AM on July 7, 2011 [7 favorites]


Yes, but can I map a single 0 dial to my cellular carriers operator?
posted by BigHeartedGuy at 11:57 AM on July 7, 2011


Relevant.
posted by brina at 12:00 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I feel like I've seen this before on Metafilter, but I may be mistaken. I love it and have wanted one of these since I first saw it. I don't have a land line and this would be great to have set up for my apartment's buzzer etc.
posted by Hoopo at 12:02 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


OMG brina I know that guy. He came by to a Gertrude Stein party with that thing. Everyone fell in love with it.
posted by The Whelk at 12:02 PM on July 7, 2011


The Whelk, he came to a wedding carrying the phone, too. He used to carry it everywhere, but I have heard he has since moved on.
posted by brina at 12:04 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


For $200 and with that much space to play with, they should include enough battery to power the phone a lot longer than 4-5 days, especially considering there's no screen to light up. On the other hand, you're not walking around with this thing, just leave it plugged into the wall 24/7.

Also, is there a number you can call on it to get a recorded voice with the time and temperature? I haven't had a trusted source for these since 1978.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:04 PM on July 7, 2011


But does it play Crysis?
posted by Mister Fabulous at 12:05 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dimensions: About the size of a rotary phone.
posted by odinsdream at 12:08 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


These have existed for awhile. I also remember seeing ones that worked over Bluetooth rather than requiring their own SIM card.
posted by roll truck roll at 12:13 PM on July 7, 2011


Weight: ~2lbs

What is a rotary without its burglar-incapacitating heft?
posted by obscurator at 12:15 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have a friend who dated a guy (who lived in NYC, so he may be the same guy, The Whelk) who had one of these. It was amusing but bulky.
posted by GenjiandProust at 12:17 PM on July 7, 2011


Steampunk for kids born in the 90s.
posted by tommasz at 12:19 PM on July 7, 2011 [24 favorites]


Very nice, I want one
posted by mumimor at 12:23 PM on July 7, 2011


I found myself wondering if I could buy one of these, and then mod it so that it could be powered by the little bit of power you can steal from landline service.

... I might be doing it wrong.
posted by floam at 12:24 PM on July 7, 2011 [5 favorites]


that'd be awesome if it also comes with an answering machine. totally justify me carrying the extra large purses that are fashionable now.
posted by fuzzypantalones at 12:26 PM on July 7, 2011


Weight: ~2lbs

obscurator: What is a rotary without its burglar-incapacitating heft?

Hah, that was my first thought, too. As teenagers in the late 1990s, my brother and I were browsing in a vintage/crap shop (not fancy enough to be a pure vintage shop, including lower prices on items), and we found a hefty yellow rotary phone. The guy who was running the place saw us looking at it, and thought we might be questioning if it really worked.

"Those things are indestructible," he told us. "My girlfriend threw one at me, but it hit the wall really hard. It still worked."

We bought the phone, and it was in my brother's room in high school. It was fun for receiving calls and showing off, but rotary phones are slow, and you start to dislike calling people whose number includes many digits beyond 4 or 5. Three zeros in your phone number? I'm waiting for you to call me.
posted by filthy light thief at 12:28 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Made one as a gift for my brother back home by ordering a dead ringer (!) off eBay of the bright yellow one we grew up with in mom's kitchen. Really fun part was matching the fonts on the center of the dial to look like the original with our old phone number and area code.
posted by hal9k at 12:28 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have wanted one of these for a very very very long time, but couldn't afford it. I've had to make do with this instead.
posted by JanetLand at 12:29 PM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


floam, you'll be wanting to see the Chartreuse Box diagram (direct link to the text file with a .BOX extension).
posted by filthy light thief at 12:34 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


We picked up a brown version of a rotary phone at the thrift store for a couple of bucks for an art project my bf never got around to doing and ended up using it twice as our landline when our cordless handsets crapped out on us (which probably says something about how something was made 'then' vs. 'now')

Now it's the only phone we use at home because our apartment's layout is such that the ringing of the bell is the only thing we can definitely hear at the other end of the apartment.
And though it's not the same as making it a cell phone, I still think it feels neat that it's plugged into a wireless router for service.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 12:34 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


That phone looks to be the ultimate UI for texting.
posted by mcstayinskool at 12:37 PM on July 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Growing up in Zimbabwe around the early 90s I had to deal with analog phones and each dialing experience was a small adventure. People who had a 0 in their number was lightly annoying, but I loved watching that wheel spin round and round. (Also there were "party lines", which is a completely different story)

Having to imagine myself dial the same numbers these days really doesn't feel like that much of a deal. Sure they're longer, and sure they'll take a longer time to dial, but somehow that makes it feel _that_ much more official than a cellphone going "bleepboopboopbeepboopbeep" in quick succession. I _like_ that small amount of time in between dialing and listening for an answer.
posted by pyrex at 12:40 PM on July 7, 2011


I was hoping it was just the handset part of a rotary Trimline. A desktop rotary phone isn't particularly portable, but I'd totally have a rotary Trimline hanging off my belt.
posted by AzraelBrown at 12:50 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


It appears that Lenny Kravitz likes his iteration (like JanetLand's link above), but the gizmodo folks, not so much...
posted by mandro at 12:55 PM on July 7, 2011


I have one of these. It goes "brriiing" when there's stuff. Actually makes me a bit giddy every time I dial out...an artifact of my time and culture.
posted by diorist at 12:58 PM on July 7, 2011


I have an old rotary and an Ooma, and found out that the Ooma doesn't deal with pulse dialing. Then I found the Rotatone, a touch-tone converter for rotary phones. It goes inside the phone, intercepts the pulses and outputs tones.

What makes it brilliant however is that it also supports * and #, so you can navigate phone menus. It also does speed-dial and redialing. Really impressive little device.
posted by zippy at 1:02 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


"ASCII version"?
posted by Gator at 1:17 PM on July 7, 2011


MetaFilter: It goes "brriiing" when there's stuff.
posted by reductiondesign at 1:21 PM on July 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


I think this is taking the "Old Phone" ringtone thing several steps too far.
posted by lordrunningclam at 1:33 PM on July 7, 2011


When I finally cut off my landline last year I had to get one of these so I could justify keeping my Western Electric 302 around. I took off the original handset and the wires and it remains as a base for my handset. I do want one of these functional rotary phones... someday.
posted by JBennett at 1:38 PM on July 7, 2011


My response to this must be to put together a soft-circuitry cell phone.
posted by hattifattener at 2:05 PM on July 7, 2011


I do not have a Port-O-Rotary, but I have a whole bunch of rotary phones, which I have all over the house and alternate sometimes. So not too long ago, when we switched our home phone service to VOIP, I was a little sad about it, and considering making a bunch of converters (they're like $50 a pop and I've easily got five or six rotaries in use at any given time, so making vs. buying made more sense).

Thing is, though, one day, I was sitting at my desk, waiting for my computer to do something, and I picked up my phone and started dialing, and...it worked.

I can dial out, I can get my voicemail, everything. And I have no idea why, but it does. So anyone considering a converter to use their rotary on a line that's not supposed to support pulse dialing, check anyway, because sometimes you might have phone fairies like I do!
posted by ernielundquist at 2:07 PM on July 7, 2011


Remember how we used to hate phone numbers with lots of nines and zeros in them? I'm actually kinda nostalgic for that little bit of Seventies hate. I want one.

However, a Slimline rotary phone as a cell would be beyond badass. Can you imagine the looks you'd get with that Harvest Gold beauty up to your ear, out on the street?
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:16 PM on July 7, 2011


Western Electric 302

My dad bought a house in SF back in the 70's that came with one of those in it. It is one solid chunk of technology. Still works.
posted by Devils Rancher at 2:19 PM on July 7, 2011


Perhaps I'm a willful atavist, but I keep a nice heavy 500-series rotary phone everywhere I'm likely to have a long, satisfying phone conversation. I've got one on my desk in the clocktower, got a cheerful yellow wall-mount in my kitchen at home, and a nice powder blue number in my workshop. People smirk, assuming these things to be among my many oddball instrument fixations, but in point of fact, the handset on most vintage phones before everything went stupid in the eighties is a product of actual ergonomic design, testing, and continual refinement. I can chatter away for hours on the yellow kitchen phone as I wash dishes (one of my states of easy satori) without being exhausted, and when someone calls, a real thing makes a real sound from metal pieces tuned to produce a pleasant collection of even and odd harmonics.

When I'm pissed, having had a frustrating converstation, I can slam the phone down very, very hard without worrying that it'll break, and those bells ring out a sympathetic cry of "too right!" There's just a there there, as they say, with these things.

I also have this magical computer phone. It's a flat slab of glass and aluminum that can do amazing things. When I'm on a scooter, roaming the mountain by-ways of West Virginia, I can pull up a map and it'll tell me right where I am, and how to get back to where I meant to be. It can play games, play music, and even tell me if there's someone within walking distance who's currently interested in sex of the variety that I'm interested in. I've got an infinite encyclopedia and a typewriter that can communicate instantly with friends in foreign lands. It's just an amazing, fascinating little thing, an artifact of the future somehow in my hand.

At the same time, it is the worst phone in the universe.

It's completely flat. There's no physical feeling or feedback. As I talk, it gets hotter and hotter and hotter, making the part of my face pressed against that featureless surface sweat until I have to pause, mid-conversation, for a degreasing. You can't prop it between your ear and shoulder, or dial it without staring into the candy-colored images on the screen. There are odd little delays, talking at the same time ruins this meager illusion of full duplex, and, if I'm talking to someone in Los Angeles (a miracle in itself), I'm guaranteed to be hung up on at least three times in a conversation. If texting and other modern miracles are displacing phone calls, I have to think it's partly because the machines that offer both options are so stacked against their original function.

Well, it's not the worst phone. My Swisstel in the shape of what you'd get if you gene-spliced a planarian to a rubber penis was the worst phone, though it sure looked kickin' next to my killer mullet back then.

Give me an evolved interface, though, for any given task.
posted by sonascope at 2:21 PM on July 7, 2011 [9 favorites]


My phone number has 62 'ticks' in it out of a possible 70. I often long for a return to rotary phones just for the sheer frustration that my peers would get, but then I remember that they'd probably just not call me.
posted by Lemurrhea at 2:43 PM on July 7, 2011


I have an ancient black rotary phone on a table in my hall, near the front door. It is used to receive calls. I haven't dialed out on the thing for decades. But I'm sure I still could. They are indeed nearly indestructible.
posted by Splunge at 3:16 PM on July 7, 2011


Srsly? A single link Sparkfun catalog (SLSC)?

I mean, you know this comes as a bluetooth accessory, don't you? And that it comes with in an nuclear hotline option? Founder Nathan Sedile more or less cops to the fact that the price point for the original unit was designed to get people not to buy it.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 3:37 PM on July 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


How ten minutes ago! Dig my cellular tin cans and and waxed string, dude!
posted by jonmc at 5:42 PM on July 7, 2011


Question: Do genuine rotary phones still work with landlines in the USA, or has the backwards-compatibility of the phone system removed at some point?

(I have a genuine rotary phone, and I'm wondering if I should put a modern telephone plug on it)
posted by anonymisc at 6:45 PM on July 7, 2011


Question: Do genuine rotary phones still work with landlines in the USA, or has the backwards-compatibility of the phone system removed at some point?

It should be fine; I have a Model 500 from 1959, still works great. I had to replace the old-style plug with the newer RJ11 plug, though.
posted by foonly at 7:07 PM on July 7, 2011


Do genuine rotary phones still work with landlines in the USA...?

Mine does.
posted by AsYouKnow Bob at 7:41 PM on July 7, 2011


You could ask your phone company to be sure, but even the newest switches support pulse dialing. I suppose they could disable it for some odd reason, just to piss off the people most likely to complain.

If you have VoIP, most ATAs support pulse dialing, too.
posted by odinsdream at 8:00 PM on July 7, 2011


Question: Do genuine rotary phones still work with landlines in the USA, or has the backwards-compatibility of the phone system removed at some point?

Yup. We've got a rotary phone from the 1920's (it looks kinda like these), complete with cloth-covered cord and old four-prong plug, that we use in our living room. We just had to get an adapter for the modular clicky wall socket thing.
posted by Lucinda at 8:04 PM on July 7, 2011


I loved Gil's (the perennially down-on-his-luck salesman) rotary cell phone on The Simpsons. There have been a few old TV shows and movies which featured rotary mobile phones (pre cellular, of course) that appeared to be actual available (at the time) models. Some early mobile phones appeared to be little more than walkie talkies (with a phone-like handset) which were used to contact a "mobile operator" who would then patch you into a landline from their station. Others were genuine person-to-person phones.

Can someone now please mod a Maxwell Smart shoe phone for us?
posted by ShutterBun at 1:17 AM on July 8, 2011


Do genuine rotary phones still work with landlines in the USA

Rotary phones also still work fine if you've got digital service through the cable company.
posted by JanetLand at 6:21 AM on July 8, 2011


Steampunk for kids born in the 90s...

If you have VoIP, most ATAs support pulse dialing, too.


I keep a rotary phone connected to a VoIP modem on my work desk specifically to prove to people that it works just fine. I frequently have younger co-workers come up to it (and the 1200 bps modem it sits on top of) and ask in awe "Where did you find this?!", as though I'd unearthed some rare treasure from the darkest depths of an ancient crypt.

When I tell them that I got it from my mom's garage, and that I knew where to find it because I grew up with it, I feel very, very old.
posted by quin at 9:09 AM on July 8, 2011


Sonascope: favorited for the pitch-perfect "in the shape of what you'd get if you gene-spliced a planarian to a rubber penis."
posted by en forme de poire at 9:53 AM on July 8, 2011


floam, you'll be wanting to see the Chartreuse Box diagram (direct link to the text file with a .BOX extension).

Thanks! What would be best is if I built one of these into the phone, in addition to a battery. Then, I will have a very useful tool for if I ever get into corny movie serial killing or haunting. Wouldn't a phone you can rip out of the wall that KEEPS ON WORKING be pretty much the best thing ever?
posted by floam at 9:00 PM on July 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


quin: When I tell them that I got it from my mom's garage, and that I knew where to find it because I grew up with it, I feel very, very old.

Growing up, we had one in our house. We also had a push-button phone, but the rotary phone lived in the phone nook, and it was most conveniently located. I learned how to dial a rotary phone, and thought nothing of it. Friends were confused, and had to be told how to use it.

What, is 31 old now? And didn't everyone grow up in a house with a phone nook?
posted by filthy light thief at 10:31 PM on July 8, 2011


« Older Time Magazine's Arts section features a nuanced lo...  |  What History Teaches Us About ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments