2017-10-27 Telephone To Desk Light

From FB reply to video of a European gutting a 500 style phone to make a desk light:
​The ‘giant’ (mini) toggle switch wasn’t the pain;  it was the hole drilled right through the dial that made me cringe.  I would’ve used an invention I made for a project I built.  I put the switch inside and I straightened out a paper clip, and put the stiff wire through a tiny hole, with a small loop in the wire for a handle.  Pull on the handle to turn it on, push in to turn it off.  Another way is to use a reed switch inside and a magnet on the outside.

The removing of any part of the phone was not necessary.  The guy took out the network to make room for the AC adapter.  But the adapter could have been used on the wall as it was meant to be used, and not put inside of the phone.  Likewise, the phone wiring could have been left intact and heavier wires could have been used, through the phone and coiled cord to the handset.  The handset could have not been changed, but the LEDs could be mounted on a heat sink and mounted to the handset with small screws.  There are these shiny aluminum heatsinks that are great looking, very decorative, and about the same size as the round parts of the handset.

(to Trevor Hammonds)

The switch hook could be used, but not with its own handset, since it is on a ‘gooseneck’ that won’t go on hook.  One would have to have another handset or weight to hold down the hook switch.  And since the wiring would have to be modified, I thought that it would make it difficult to restore the set to its original state.  But I can see getting around the wiring modification with a bit of electronics.
Yeah, that would work, but that would go against my leaving the phone unmodified.

What would work well is a power MOSFET to control the DC and invert the signal.  The switch hook would ground the gate of the MOSFET, turning the light off when off hook.  The switch hook would open when on hook, causing the MOSFET to conduct and turn on the light.  There would be no connections inside the phone other than the tip and ring, leaving it unmodified.


2017-10-26 AT&T And Carterfone Decision 

From FB group Bell Telephone…

Ars Technica article link at the end.


You’re right, Ed.  I’m also on another old timer’s group and someone brought up the days we were coming in from gym class in high school, and we had a hard time breathing because of the smog here in the LA basin.  The car companies gave us a consistent product that worked.  And we would be still having difficulty breathing if the AQMD and CARB had not enforced air quality laws that made car makers put pollution control on automobiles.  Times changed and the companies weren’t keeping up.  I didn’t say AT&T was like VW and trying to get away with violating the laws.  I’m just saying it was more in the interests of the consumers the way it turned out.

I used to use a dial-up modem.  We might still be using them if things had stayed the same.

In fact, we might not have been able to use dial-up modems if the courts had not decided against AT&T in the Carterfone decision.  We might not have had even acoustic modems. 😱

I’ve been reading this 2008 article about the Carterfone Decision, and I found that its principles are *still* being applied to business by the FCC.  I quote (and I couldn’t have said it better):

“A 1999 FCC policy paper noted the significance and justly gave the agency credit for the proliferation of this application. “The Carterfone decision enabled consumers to purchase modems from countless sources,” the agency concluded. “Without easy and inexpensive consumer access to modems, the Internet would not have become the global medium that it is today.””


“But a good idea doesn’t enforce itself. If Skype’s petition to the FCC asking the agency to apply Carterfone principles to the mobile Internet prevails, it will be because hundreds of thousands of citizen/consumers have made it clear to the government that it must. It is not acceptable, as Skype argues, for the big telcos to use their influence over handset design “to maintain control over and limit subscribers rights to run software communications applications of their choosing.” But it won’t actually be unacceptable unless consumers exercise enough control over the regulatory process to make it so.

In the end, Carterfone says that it is our telecommunications system, not AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast’s. We finance the system with our subscription, application, and investment money. We support it with utility easements, regulatory breaks, and government contracts paid for by our taxes. We make it work because we are its workers. We make it exciting with our innovations, technical and social, big and small.

We do not begrudge the CEOs of these great corporations their legal positions. But they are, as Andrew Carnegie would put it, stewards of the system, not its owners. They are not there to tell us to Go Away. They are there to keep the system running while we discover it, use it, develop it, innovate it, game it, finesse it, and reinvent it to our heart’s content. The great enterprise of telecommunications is no better than our right to participate in it as individuals.”


2017-10-25 Cisco VoIP Errors, Fax Jitter

From FB group Bell Telephone… Oct 28

Pat Chicas

We (at where I worked) used all Cisco 7900 sets.  You can tap the help “?” button twice during a call and see the statistics for the call, both for a time (per second?) and cumulative.  I would go to one bldg and make a call, and watch the errors accumulate.  One of our guys said that it shouldn’t go over 100, usually just a few.  Callers were complaining of ‘noisy handset’ like a bad coiled cord.  Instead I was seeing error rates way over 100, sometimes over 2000. I found out the phones buffer the packets, but if the delay is too long the packets get dropped, and the caller hears either noise or a gap (dropout).  The problems were from high traffic, caused by security cameras.  We had to add fiber links between bldgs and the data center.
Easy for you to say, Pat Chicas.  I was not involved with VoIP call manager, I was the guy who had to watch out that I didn’t get poked in the eye by a T-bar wire.  The switches we were using were Cisco 3650(?) with PoE, but we switched (no pun intended) to Brocades.  We had other problems like PoE overload, and one other really stupid problem with PoE injectors.  As far as I knew, the switches supported QoS, but when the pipes are too small, there’s nothing the switch can do about it.  😵
Joshua Perrella

VoIP Ugghh is right!

We had fax machines that were connected to the Cisco box in the data center.  Many of the faxes were big Xerox WorkCentre machines.  The cheap desktop faxes (Brother , etc.) would negotiate or renegotiate slower speeds if the VoIP system had too much delay or jitter.  But those Xerox prima donnas would refuse to go slower, instead retry to send the fax for *weeks*.  Really.  So we had to get the Xerox tech out to set (or reset after a software update) the maximum fax speed to 4800 bps.  Only then would they work halfway reliably.
Mike Sica

I don’t remember what the Ciscos were, might’ve been ATA.  As far as I was concerned the only thing I had to deal with was the 110 blocks on the back board.  And they were a pain, too, because they started out with port zero, not port 1.

As long as we kept the damn Xeroxes in line, things were halfway working.  But if the users wanted to fax to another campus (or any other fax within the district phone system), they had to use the 5 digit phone number.  If they dialed the full area code and number, the VoIP would use the path to the CO and back, thus it went through the ISDN trunks twice, and that caused too much delay, jitter, timing issues or whatever, and the fax would not work.  So I had to indoctrinate the users to use only the 5 digit number.
We had the all-in-one Xerox WorkCentres that let us scan in documents and send them through emails to anyone anywhere.  Much better than fax.  I thought these would put the fax machines out of business.  I thought the fax machines would be an anachronism, but they kept hanging on, due to state and federal grant requirements.  One of the concerns was about student ID privacy, where departments could not share fax machines.  

Mike Sica

We hired a guy who worked on the call manager for the local school district.  He helped me learn some, even though his new job was not involved with the network.  He told me that the school district was too cheap to upgrade the call manager software, so they were still running an old version.  I’m guessing this happens at a lot of other organizations, too.  We were buying new 7942 sets for a couple hundred apiece.  I went on eBay and found lots of ten used sets for the price of one new one.  I figured we could buy a used set, throw it away and keep the handset and it would still be cheaper than a new handset.  So rather than spend $$ on software updates, they were wasting it on phones.


2017-10-24 AT&T And The Breakup

From FB group Bell Telephone…  Oct 29, 30

to Ronald Cooper

Yeah, Touchtone is an excellent example of AT&T’s holding back technology.  Besides the customer paying them for a service that benefitted AT&T more, making the customer pay so much ($1.20 a month, when my phone bill was $10 to $15 a month), they gave the customer the ‘option’ of not having the service, which meant that the technology really was held back.  See back then you had no choice as to what phone you had installed.  If you chose to save $1.20 a month and not have Touchtone, then Ma Bell installed a rotary dial phone.  This meant that *no service* could be universally implemented!  The other services we take for granted today could not be implemented because only a fraction of the telco customers had Touchtone.  The list is endless!  VM, Answering Machines, Tellerphone banking, other forms of banking, many, many other services such as Rx reordering,  and the Big One that stabs at the heart of AT&T’s Cash Cow, the long distance phone cards.  It’s obvious that AT&T was trying to keep those from siphoning away their LD business.  I remember when Radio Shack, et al, sold Touchtone dialers to hold against the mouthpiece.  So in reality, AT&T never was willing to play on a level playing field.  “Have it our way, not your way.”
I had no intention of any political inference.  I’m not sure what you mean by ‘even without competition.’  AT&T was subject to tariffs, like the competition.  Tariffs were a double-edged sword.  They forced competition to charge the same price for a service thereby eliminating pressure to compete on price.  The consumer was paying $50 for a 1 hour call to another area code only 30 miles away.  Now my whole phone bill is only $35 a month, with nationwide free long distance.  That was not the way AT&T wanted it, and it was due to competition.

BTW, I heard that T-Mobile and Sprint are trying to merge.


2017-10-22 Royal 500 Battery Holder Contacts 

Here’s a photo of one contact I made from a tin can lid.  I cut it out with a scissors, and flattened and bent it with a hammer on a heavy block of steel.  It’s a bit blurry because I used a magnifying glass to get closer.


2017-10-21 Zenith Royal 500 Radio Problems

From FB group Vintage Transistor Radios

Jim LaFrance:

I’ve never found a Zenith that was not worthy of repair. Good solid builds!

I agree; they’re solid, well designed radios.  Now that I have a bunch, my supply of old germanium transistors that I had accumulated seems inadequate, so I may have to start experimenting with silicon.  Rebiasing doesn’t seem to be a problem, but other considerations, such as higher gain and neutralization become important.

One thing I did see was the old carbon composition resistors go out of tolerance.  I found one that was labeled 1k, 10%, and it measured 1200 ohms.  Close enough to make the circuit seem to work, but not work very good.  So keep that in mind.  👍


2017-10-19 Santa Ana College Early History of Datacomm

From my post to FB group Bell Telephone…

We were having problems with one of our 4 wire point to multipoint datacomm circuits.  Every morning at a little after 9 AM the circuit would go down.  I called in the problem and a Pac Bell tech came out, but couldn’t find a problem.  Next day, same problem – another trouble ticket.  No problem found.  After the third time, the tech said to call it in as a chronic, and gave me his pager #.  Next day, I got him to come out when it was down, and he connected his butt set to see if he could hear some data.  Instead we were hearing a conversation, with someone at a bank!  I guess it was caused by a cable pair that appeared at more than one address (we were using almost all of 53 cable, and part of another cable, too.  We finally got a Lightspan to alleviate the cable overload.)

I think for my first ten years, my pursuing telco trouble tickets and keeping on top of the issues were paying for my salary.  We had dozens of dumb terminals around town all connected to the mainframe computer, when we lost a line, we might have a dozen or more employees sitting with nothing to do.  No wonder we were willing to pay hundreds of dollars a month for those lines.  We started out with a single multidrop line, and a few years later we split it into two lines due mainly to load, and eventually we ended up with four lines, all starting with 74FDDA.  When I came in 1980, the line had been in (and out of) service for probably 6 months but due to outages, those off campus sites were not able to depend on the data entry terminals, instead they just bundled up all the applications and paperwork and sent it over to the college for data entry.  Once I got the problems with the lines straightened out, the offcampus sites started to use the data entry terminals, and became dependent on them, and they put the off campus workers to work doing the data entry.  This, along with our programmers developing more applications, put more load on the whole system.  We had to upgrade the Honeywell Bull mainframes four times during the mainframe years, along with the other infrastructure.  The telephone key systems and switchboard went out and we put in PBX nodes, which still depended on Centrex features form Pac Bell’s Central Office.

This first datacomm line in 1980 was the start of our datacomm metropolitan area network.  We also had dozens of lines on campus that were also multidrop, through telephone cables between bldgs.  That’s how I started out learning about telephones and telecom infrastructure.


2017-10-18 USS Ticonderoga Comm System

From my post to FB group Bell Telephone…

Around 1967 I was on leave from the army, and our mentor took a friend and I down to San Diego to troubleshoot the comms system on the USS Ticonderoga.  Here I was on leave from eating in a mess hall, and we ate lunch in the ship’s mess hall.  They had Strowger switches, and I nosed around and found out what was causing the constant alarm condition: it was a piece of a cleaning rag stuck between the contacts!  Here was an example of cleanliness causing problems.  Our mentor went about his business doing other things, and between us we got things straightened out.  And our mentor ended up collecting a nice bit of $$ for a day’s work.  I guess this was my first intro to telephone switching equipment, if you can call the ship’s comm system a central office.

I just remembered that one other thing our mentor did was clean the contacts of the generator / interruptor that generated dial tone, busy signal, etc.


2017-10-16 AT&T Breakup

From comments on FB group Bell Telephone..

Ed Vaughn said:

That story makes me ill.  Why break what was perhaps the best-run machine in the world?
I replied:

Why?  Well, it wasn’t the first time AT&T was forced to comply with government’s decisions.  Like you said, it was a machine, and whether or not it was run well wasn’t the problem.  The problem was technology marched ahead, but AT&T was stuck with 30 year amortization of equipment that was obsolete after 5 years.  MCI ran rings around Ma Bell, charging less than a nickel a minute for long distance when AT&T was charging a dime.

To me, AT&T was a pioneer in research, but too old and stodgy – not progressive enough – in the use of their research and patents.  Many experts believe that had things remained the same, we would never have advanced technologically to the point we’re at today.

The deed was done and there’s no going back.  The breakup benefitted the consumer in many ways.  The same thing happened to Standard Oil.  It will happen again some day.


2017-10-15 Royal Transistor Radio Making Battery Contacts

I have had to make several contacts for the Zenith Royal 500 transistor radios, and I’m only on the second radio refurbishing.  Most of the problems have been mechanical – worn volume controls, tuning capacitor shorted because the screw for the trimmer capacitor was grounding, and bad battery contacts.  The battery contacts have been horribly corroded, to the point where they are disintegrated or fall apart.  There was nothing to repair.  So I have been replacing them with sheet steel I cut from a tin can lid with scissors.

The first two I made were single thickness, and work okay.  The third one I made this morning by folding the sheet in half and flattening it, then bending it to shape and drilling a hole for the screw.  The spring is twice as strong but it seems to work okay.  Since it is two layers, the battery liquid will go between the layers and quickly corrode it.  It will have to be replaced even more often.  But these radios were made around 1960 and have lasted more than 50 years, so I don’t think that’s a big problem.

I made this double thickness contact in the wrong order.  The right order is the following.

Cut the steel lid a bit wider than the original contact.  The excess will be trimmed off later.  It should be about 2-5/8 inches long.

Use a hammer and pound the sheet flat on a smooth, flat surface.  File off the sharp edges.  Then using sandpaper, sand off any paint or varnish.

Measure and fold the sheet in half.  Flatten with the hammer.

Make the 90 degree bend farthest from the folded end.  Then make the 170 degree bend close to the folded end.

Drill the hole for the screw in the 90 degree end.  This hole should be slightly bigger than the 2-56 screw.  Check the size and trim excess with the scissors.

Before putting the screw in, put the solid copper wire through the hole and solder it to the contact.  After it has cooled, secure it with the 2-56 by 3/16 inch screw and nut.

Repeat as necessary.  So far I’ve only had to replace the contacts closest to the bottom probably because the battery juice runs downward.

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