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1960's Era Car Phones?


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Curious if anyone here has, or knows a source for a vintage car phone?

I'm looking for an Aristocrat, Cambridge or Motorola Pulsar style phone with hand set and rotary dial.  Appreciate any and all input.

Cheers, Greg

 

aristocrat.jpg.04d9fa7010b430419c99188e25d0f857.jpgcar-phones-1.jpg.4e9b4bd63a6b0a0b42dbc5c3cd3e6eb0.jpg

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What was the price of these phones back when

they were in use--in the 1960's or 1970's, perhaps?

And what was the cost of their monthly service,

and the cost of the calls?  That would be very interesting

to find out.  It must have been exorbitant, since very few

of these car telephones were in use. 

 

I've seen old ads, circa 1950's, extolling how "inexpensive"

it was to make long-distance calls.  The actual rates are

given between various cities.  But adjusted for

inflation, it would be like a 3-minute call at the late-day

discounted rates was, depending on distance, $5 to $10!

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4 minutes ago, John_S_in_Penna said:

What was the price of these phones back when

they were in use--in the 1960's or 1970's, perhaps?

And what was the cost of their monthly service,

and the cost of the calls?  That would be very interesting

to find out.  It must have been exorbitant, since very few

of these car telephones were in use. 

When those phones were in use, one was not allowed to actually buy the handset.  Ma Bell had a monopoly on the service, and would only rent out the equipment.  It wasn't until 1982 or so, when one was able to legally use their own purchased equipment as long as it was FCC approved.  I remember back in the day when the equipment was rented, one paid so much for a black desk or wall phone.  If you wanted a colored phone, it was .50 cents a month extra, a longer cord, another .50 cents, and so on.  And extension phone was another so much per month.  Answering machines were ridiculously expensive per month, something like $15.50 a month as I recall, which made them basically limited to places of business.  Therefore, I could see a charge on a mobile phone being horrendous, plus the connection fees each time one had to use it, and then the inconvenience of only 10 lines (or less) that could be used for communication at the time.  If they were all in use, you had to wait until a vacant line was open.

 

Craig

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On 7/22/2021 at 12:04 AM, GregLaR said:

Curious if anyone here has, or knows a source for a vintage car phone?

I'm looking for an Aristocrat, Cambridge or Motorola Pulsar style phone with hand set and rotary dial.  Appreciate any and all input.

Cheers, Greg

 

car-phones-1.jpg.4e9b4bd63a6b0a0b42dbc5c3cd3e6eb0.jpg

Now that I think about it, do you only want the compact handset seen in the photos that makes it look so appealing like a Princess phone in the bedroom?  Or do you also want the big, heavy trunk-mounted transmitter/receiver as well that goes along with it?

 

Craig

Edited by 8E45E (see edit history)
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I was surprised that the 'car phone' goes back to the late 40's early 50's.  And yes I would like to see the cost, probably close to the cost of the car itself. There was a reason why 'back in the day' only doctors had phones and pagers. Late 70's early 80's there was a local plumber that had a 'car phone'.  I seem to remember him telling dad its cost was in the thousands!  He was the first 'regular' guy around that had one and whenever he made a call he was sure to tell you that he was calling on his car phone.  It was big news when the bag phone came out and they became mobile from vehicle to vehicle.

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If you watch 'Canon' (tv show from the 70's) he uses his car phone that is in his Lincoln frequently. He always asks the operator to connect him to so and so. I think he may say something like 'this is mobile operator such n such, connect me to ........'  I assume there was no direct dialing from one.

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The car phones were popular with construction contractors doing Plan and Spec bid jobs. The final bid sheets were always left open on the front seat with the final number blank. It didn't get filled in until they walked up the steps at the bid deposit location. The phone was there to get the last minute word from the snoops who bought the estimators lunch.

 

Electrical and HVAC contractors had (have) the most flexible bids and likelihood of the greatest number of change orders so one of them may have an old system in their storage room.

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I was in the construction business with my brothers, we did mostly commercial work and of that about 90% was bid. Most of the time I was the 'runner'. First thing I would do when I got to the bid drop off was to call the office and make sure I had service. Very stressful waiting until 5 minutes before the drop time to be sitting in the parking lot filling out a bid form. Problem was most subs would wait until the last minute to submit their numbers. 

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3 hours ago, TAKerry said:

If you watch 'Canon' (tv show from the 70's) he uses his car phone that is in his Lincoln frequently. He always asks the operator to connect him to so and so. I think he may say something like 'this is mobile operator such n such, connect me to ........'  I assume there was no direct dialing from one.

That was true in Alberta at the time.  Mobile phone numbers had the prefix 'XJ" along with the numbers as I recall.

 

Craig

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5 hours ago, 8E45E said:

Now that I think about it, do you only want the compact handset seen in the photos that makes it look so appealing like a Princess phone in the bedroom?  Or do you also want the big, heavy trunk-mounted transmitter/receiver as well that goes along with it?

 

Craig

I am looking for a complete unit Craig.  They have popped up on various auction sites over the last couple of years but ended days or weeks before I knew they were available.

Greg

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     In the early 1960's (before I started playing with boats) I worked for a NAPA jobber (wholesaler) serving garage and industrial accounts in the hills of central and western Maine.

    The company had two full-time outside salesmen who were supplied with leased station wagons equipped with commercial two-way radios and three branch stores all connected with each other and the moblle stations in the cars.  The base station operated on ( I think) a commercial portion of the 80m band on channelized assigned frequencies and was quite short range but mostly really helped with customer service. AFAIK Ma Bell was not involved. The FCC was involved as I had to get a very limited operators license.

  As I recall the radios were dependable but I also recall some spectacular transmitter capacitor failures.

  I suspect this was the forerunner of the phone service the OP was referring to.

  NAPA at that time was an auto parts supplier to the wholesale jobbers and did not operate independent parts stores.

  The company I worked for had been a Reo truck and auto dealer in the thirties and was a Collins Radio distributor which probably explains the  (relativity) early use of commercial mobile radio.

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6 hours ago, JimKB1MCV said:

I suspect this was the forerunner of the phone service the OP was referring to.

No, this was commercial two way radios, still in use today. Like all the Taxi cabs back then that were "Radio Dispatched".👍

 

6 hours ago, JimKB1MCV said:

The FCC was involved as I had to get a very limited operators license.

Yes, you needed a Third Class Restricted Radiotelephone License back then. No longer a requirement. Do not confuse the word Radiotelephone with anything Ma Bell had. Radiotelephone was voice over the ether, Radiotelegraph was Morse Code over the ether. Radiotelegraph was used by ships, I'm sure you saw those radio rooms!😉

Edited by Frank DuVal (see edit history)
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Hi Greg,

I will check and see if I still have any of the radio sets you are wanting. I closed my two-way radio shop about 5 years ago. When I was cleaning out the building I tossed almost 3 tons of old radio equipment. One of my friends liked to collect odd radio things. I know I had 2 Moto Pulsar radios with Seacode control heads. I think both were rotary dial. Now just so you are aware there were two different mobile phone systems and both systems operated on two bands, VHF and UHF. The systems were Telco and RCC (Radio Common Carrier). The Telco systems were owned and operated exclusively by the big telephone system operators.  Think Ma Bell, General Telephone etc... All of the Telco operating frequencies have now been auctioned by the FCC to private owners for various uses and the RCC frequencies may also have been reassigned. The advent of cellular made these systems obsolete and non profitable. I am not sure. In any case these systems are most likely now out of service and an actual operating radio would be of no practical use except for show. To even transmit with one of those old radios would technically be illegal and in violation of FCC rules. Please do not get me wrong, I am just giving information. I am not the radio police and I have no dog in the fight!

Anyway, I will check with my friend and see if he saved the Pulsars. Don't hold your breath, but I will check.

 

Edited by 37_Roadmaster_C (see edit history)
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You can go on Ebay. Occasionally there's someone selling a unit. I have one in my collection of phones. I used them back in the mid sixties when I worked for a general contractor in Delaware. You could dial directly out on them and receive calls directly dialed to them. But, they were party lines. When you picked up the receiver it might be busy with someone talking and depending on your service, you might have to wait or punch another line until you found a tone.  

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In 1910, Lars Magnus Ericsson in Stockholm Sweden installed a telephone in his car. As he drove around the country, Ericsson would connect his phone with a pair of long electrical wires into the telephone poles installed along the road. This was the first car phone, the concept did not take off in popularity. Ericsson was a big name in telephone service and equipment in Europe. The first picture of a 1964 Motorola phone like I have and used in the 1960's was hooked into the Bell system and was just a dial out party line phone. The trunk unit wasn't extremely large. However, the large cables that connected it to the phone was a real headache to install. Also the thin wire antenna was mounted directly in the center of the cars top. The second photo is the equipment needed for the radiotelephone systems in the late forties. Just think how hard it would be to carry all that on your belt or in your pocket!!!!!!

Motorola Carphone Model TLD 1100, 1964,.jpg

R.jpg

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Great thread. Out here in Ruritania I never knew of anyone who had these.

 

Granted, they were uncommon and expensive so few people had them, but you have to wonder how much these phones contributed to distracted driving.

 

A little off topic, and maybe they were just in the movies, but how did table phones work in nightclubs and restaurants? They never seemed to have a cord when they were brought to a table for some high muckety-muck or other  "individual of great importance" to use.

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3 minutes ago, rocketraider said:

Great thread. Out here in Ruritania I never knew of anyone who had these.

 

Granted, they were uncommon and expensive so few people had them, but you have to wonder how much these phones contributed to distracted driving.

 

A little off topic, and maybe they were just in the movies, but how did table phones work in nightclubs and restaurants? They never seemed to have a cord when they were brought to a table for some high muckety-muck or other  "individual of great importance" to use.

Actually table phones in restaurants and hotel Lobby's did have wires. They would be brought to the person and then the service personnel that brought it would take the wire to the closest phone socket and plug it in. All these sockets were wired alike.  In the movies they can do anything they want. The eastern shore of Maryland, Delaware and Virginia is flat land and the Bell Telephone Mobile phones worked well. Not only did contractors have them, but so did the Feds and every phone company executive have them. The land was so flat and Delaware being only 96 miles long, the State Police communicated via FM radio units.

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Now that we have some knowledgeable experts

on this topic, can anyone give an example of the

cost of these mobile phones?

 

Since they weren't common at all, they clearly

must have been worthwhile only for the limited

number of people who really needed them.

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5 hours ago, John_S_in_Penna said:

Now that we have some knowledgeable experts

on this topic, can anyone give an example of the

cost of these mobile phones?

 

Since they weren't common at all, they clearly

must have been worthwhile only for the limited

number of people who really needed them.

It will be difficult to find out the actual cost of them as they were never available for outright purchase.  As I stated earlier, Ma Bell never sold their equipment to the user, and only rented it; a fixed amount for the service which included the use of the mobile unit, plus the connection fees every time a call was placed.  And because it was rented, the Telco looked after any repairs, and were also obligated to exchanging it with updated equipment.  I believe Xerox still operates this way, or at least used to.   A company could never outright purchase a Xerox machine, either.

 

I suppose if one really want to establish an actual cost of the unit, perhaps a trade journal of the era might give an answer of the cost of manufacture somewhere.  

 

Craig

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1 hour ago, 8E45E said:

It will be difficult to find out the actual cost of them as they were never available for outright purchase. 

 

Craig, I was thinking of the monthly service fees;

and the cost per phone call, whether local or not.

They must have been expensive, much more than

ordinary home telephone service.

 

Knowing those would be an insight into the automotive past.

 

Edited by John_S_in_Penna (see edit history)
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This is interesting, I never knew of carphones before 80s , I had one with a home type hand in my company car , it worked via a large box under my seat . I knew military had radio phones in 40s ,but never knew about the phones mentioned above . How did they work , were they radio technology to a land based operator service or were they able to dial into land line numbers ( 4g mobiles didn’t exist then) 

really amazed , must have been very expensive so quite rare , I would think 

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The equipment WAS available for purchase for the RCC service systems. The Telco owned systems I am not sure until the late 70's when both were available for outright purchase for sure. It really does not matter as both systems operated with the same radios. The only thing that changed was the channel names and frequencies and the control head (phone in front). You can tell which system by looking at the phone buttons. If the buttons have a two letter designation it is Telco. If the buttons have number designations it is RCC.

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I believe RCC could be purchased outright, although like CB radio, an annual license fee had to be paid.   However, it was a 'closed loop' system as I recall with no provision to connect to the telephone network.  One could only communicate between the base station and the mobile units. I never seen any as used in a taxicab, or trucking firm have the capability of being connected to the telephone network.

 

Out on a limb here, but perhaps in some areas, there may have been a modem available for rent from the Telco to connect to an RCC unit as an experiment, or for prototype use.  I've never seen or heard of one being compatible with RCC, but I guess it was possible.

 

Craig

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On 7/23/2021 at 10:44 PM, 37_Roadmaster_C said:

The advent of cellular made these systems obsolete and non profitable. I am not sure. In any case these systems are most likely now out of service and an actual operating radio would be of no practical use except for show.

That is certainly true for early cell phones:

 

 

11bh030.jpg

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The infrastructure needed to support these early car phones had to very limited back them. Cell phone service in Manhattan was very poor prior to 9/11, it took a major event to correct that problem,

The technology evolution is amazing looking at these early mobile phones were analog rotary tip and ring phones, to what we have now is fascinating! 

It all starts with an idea, just think roughly 60 years after the Wright Brothers we were orbiting the earth. Look at the growth of the portable phone industry.... who other then me thought texting was the dumbest thing they ever heard of when it first happened ? Go figure

Edited by John348 (see edit history)
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Imagine what it was like out here in the wilds of Southside Vajenya. Even now my phone service will occasionally drop a call, but as late as 3 yrs ago I would have to go outside to get enough signal to make a call. Sometimes then, depending on where I was in the yard, the phone would roam and I'd get hit with roaming charges.

 

The wireless security system went thru 3 phone company dialers before finding one that was in any way reliable. Of all things that was CenturyLink which doesn't even serve this area with landlines, but they have a tower that my dialer can reach. AT&T or Verizon? Ha!

 

Texting is still dumb but I sure use it a lot☺️.

 

The marvel of modern communications. I thought we were high tech when we got a private phone line and no longer had to fool with a rural party line. There was a gossipy old biddy in the neighborhood who kept it tied up all the time. If you were on the phone and she wanted the line to spread her latest gossip, she'd rapid-fire tap the receiver hook buttons. I remember hearing my Mama tell her once "Sadie, wait your damn turn like the rest of us do!" She'd also listen in on your conversations...

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What a great idea to get an old car phone. Good luck in your search! My favorite retro automotive communication device was the one Arch Hall used in The Choppers, but I think it would be a little awkward.

 

 

valmis642pj9.7792.jpg

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19 hours ago, 8E45E said:

I believe RCC could be purchased outright, although like CB radio, an annual license fee had to be paid.   However, it was a 'closed loop' system as I recall with no provision to connect to the telephone network.  One could only communicate between the base station and the mobile units. I never seen any as used in a taxicab, or trucking firm have the capability of being connected to the telephone network.

 

Out on a limb here, but perhaps in some areas, there may have been a modem available for rent from the Telco to connect to an RCC unit as an experiment, or for prototype use.  I've never seen or heard of one being compatible with RCC, but I guess it was possible.

 

Craig

 

Craig,

RCC was a specific service that allowed telephone inretconnect to a radio system to provide mobiletelephone service. The radio system you are refering to was simply business radio service. The business owner applied for a license with the FCC and paid an application fee and the FCC would grant a license and frequency to operate on. The license was for 5 years and renewable for a fee for another 5 years and so on. Once they had a license in hand they could then buy radios and use them for business communications.

The early mobilephone systems were nothing like cellular. The operator/owner of the system held the FCC license for everybody that used their systems. The customer either bought or rented the mobile equipment. Any two way radio shop could sell the equipment and set it up to the system it was going to be used on. That was me in my business as a two way radio dealer and repair shop. The customer had a contract with the system operator which provided them a phone number and access to the system. The customer would pay a monthly access fee for the access plus an airtime charge for the minutes used each month. The prices varied greatly depending on the coverage area and features offered. The access charge could range from a lpw of $30 per month to a high approaching $300 per month. The minute charges were between $.25 and $.50 per minute unless you bought a block of monthly time. Now one thing to remember is that these systems were for telephone operation only, not dispatch operations like taxi cabs or fleet service or deliverys. Now private businesses like taxis could install phone patch equipment at their base station and special microphones on their mobiles and then have telephone access from their cars to their phone line. There are a lot of ways to do this with varying costs and features. The system I owned and operated in the early 90's was quite basic. It was one channel, party line type operation and covered about a 40 mile radius from the base location on a hilltop just outside of town. I did not charge minute fees, but asked my customers to be courteous to others. I also did not allow long distance calls. I charged $50 per month and sold new mobiles for around $750. It worked well for me and my customers until cellular squashed me like a bug...  That system and some of the mobiles were part of the tonnage that went to the dump. Oh well. Time moves on...

 

I have gotten WAY OT with this so if anyone wants to chat more please PM me and we can chat.

Edited by 37_Roadmaster_C
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23 hours ago, 8E45E said:

That is certainly true for early cell phones:

 

 

11bh030.jpg

The phone shown here in this picture was on an analog system which by the way was what GM's OnStar used prior to the end of the 2010 decade. Then everything changed to digital and made these phones obsolete. OnStar notified everyone with a used car that still was connect to their system that they could no longer support it and ended OnStar for those cars. I had these phones in my car and motor home from the late 80's till they ended and they served me very well.

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That phone was the factory offering in a 1991 Avanti.  

 

I think it was the Europeans who may have offered in-car telephones first, at least over in their home market.  Mercedes Benz did offer them as a factory installation in the 600 models.  And some of the Russian Zil had them installed at the factory.  I have a 1970 Thunderbird brochure showing an interior photo with one in use, and the caption stated "Telephone available from outside sources.", meaning it was not a Ford accessory, nor made By Philco.

 

Craig

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5 hours ago, 37_Roadmaster_C said:

The early mobilephone systems were nothing like cellular....

The prices varied greatly depending on the coverage area and features offered. The access charge could range from a low of $30 per month to a high approaching $300 per month. The minute charges were between $.25 and $.50 per minute unless you bought a block of monthly time.

 

Roadmaster (Robin), in what years were these the costs?

1960's?  1970's?  I'd like to mentally convert them for inflation.

This is the information I was wondering about.

 

These figures show why the average person would not own this equipment---

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In 1992 I flew from Rochester, NY to LA to take in the Pomona Swap Meet and enjoy a leisurely few days in the Uplands area and east. The plane had a phone available for each passenger seat at something like $7.00 per minute. I remember that well because I called home as I was flying over the west slopes of the Rockies. A Model A friend was flabbergasted that I would do such an extravagant thing. I asked him how much he thought I spent on the 4 or 5 days I was out there.

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2 hours ago, 60FlatTop said:

In 1992 I flew from Rochester, NY to LA to take in the Pomona Swap Meet and enjoy a leisurely few days in the Uplands area and east. The plane had a phone available for each passenger seat at something like $7.00 per minute. I remember that well because I called home as I was flying over the west slopes of the Rockies. A Model A friend was flabbergasted that I would do such an extravagant thing. I asked him how much he thought I spent on the 4 or 5 days I was out there.

I lived in Massachusetts with my parents and my brother with his new wife moved to California in 1958. At that time a long distance land line phone call from Mass. to Calif. cost $3.00 for the first 3 minutes and a dollar a minute after. ($3.00) was min. Oh yeah and that was at the lowest nighttime rate. In those days there were three different time rates for long distance calls. You couldn't dial long distance direct until around 1965-68. We've come a long way. Adjusted for inflation 3.00 in 1958 equal 28.00 today.  

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Back in the mid 60s were we given a VHF Monitoradio (yes, that's the brand) that covered the 108 to 174 MC (yep, that old) narrow band FM. We had fun listening to the mobile phone calls up around 170 MHz. No scrambling, just narrow band FM signals.

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11 hours ago, 37_Roadmaster_C said:

 

 

I have gotten WAY OT with this so if anyone wants to chat more please PM me and we can chat.

On the contrary, I really appreciate your knowledge on this subject!

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