Throughout the 1950’s and 1960’s, telephones continued to be constructed of hard plastic. Many telephones throughout this period contained a large square base that curved inward and formed two cradles for the handset to rest upon ( Telephone 1950). On the front surface of each phone was a dial pad where a person would place their finger in the circular cutout next to the number they wanted, and turn the dial to the right until it reached a metal stopper (Telephone 1960). A person would continue this process for each digit of the telephone number in order for a call to be placed. The design of 1950’s telephones had evolved to include colored plastic housing, which was a change from the common black plastics found throughout the 1930’s and 1940’s (Telephone 1950).
The telephone booth was a product of the 1950’s, allowing people to use public telephones twenty-four hours a day. The Airlight Booth was unlike standard telephones found desk and wall telephones found in homes because it was contained in its own public shelter, complete with a folding door for privacy Also created was the Semi-Booth, which was a public telephone area stationed inside public buildings. Both booth options created by the Bell Telephone System contained the same large, rectangular, wall mounted telephone (There’s Something).
Telephone headsets were invented during the 1950’s, but were not used by the general public. Instead, telephone operators and dispatchers wore headsets, which had attached microphones that could be bent into position, in order to keep their hands free while at work (Telephone 1950). This change in design was mostly due to telephone operators’ need to multi-task, and holding a telephone in one hand at all times prevented them from being able perform several tasks at once. The headset design meant that an operator would always have two hands free because they would not have to pick-up or hang-up the phone, or hold receiver to their head while they talked. This product promoted efficiency, simplicity, and mobility due to its compact, hands-free design.
The next evolution in telephone design came in the 1970’s when cordless phones were introduced to the public (Telephone 1970). Cordless telephone systems had two parts, a base/ docking station, and a handset. The handset and base were both needed in order to operate the phone, but they did not need to be attached unless while in use. Cordless telephones further expanded on the headset design of the 1950’s, allowing people maneuverability their home or building, and even outside their home in most cases. The actual design of the phone remained plastic, which is any easy to clean, durable material.
The next generation of the telephone was the mobile phone. The first mobile phone was patented in 1908 by Nathan Stubblefield, but the first distributed cell phones that could complete long distance calls were made available in the ate 1980’s (Corrigan). AT&T tested cell phone capabilities in 1947, and Bell Labs tested the idea again in 1977 (Bellis). Eventually, wireless problems were solved, and over one million people owned cell phones by 1987 (Bellis). Cell phones allow people to contact others when they are away from their homes. The first cells phones were heavy and bulky, but have since become sleek, lightweight, and pocket-sized.
Current telephone design is basically the same design from the 1950’s with the exception of the design of the cell phone. Home and business phones are primarily black and white, but continue to be produced almost every color, including clear plastic. Telephones are still produced in the standard and cordless designs, but the dial is more commonly replaced with stationary, plastic buttons.
Cell phones and cell phone accessories continue to evolve and become smaller and more compact. The most recent cell phone designs contain computers capabilities, text messaging, video and camera functions, and have the ability to play music either through a speaker or attachable headphones. Blue-tooth headsets are also available for cell phones, allowing a person to hear and speak through one earpiece, reliving their hands while the drive and perform everyday functions.
Bellis, Mary. “Selling the Cell Phone.” Ask.com: Inventors. 2009. 21 Apr. 2009 <http://inventors.about.com/library/weekly/aa070899.htm>.
Corrigan, Joanna. “’Mobile’ Phone Enjoys Centenery.” Telegraph. Telegraph.co.uk. 21 Apr. 2009 <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/1947168/Mobile-phone-enjoys-centenery.html>.
“Telephone Ads From the 1950’s.” myinsulators.com. 21 Apr. 2009 <http://www.myinsulators.com/commokid/telephones/1950s_telephone_ads.htm>.
“Telephone Ads of the 1960’s.” myinsulators..com. 21 Apr. 2009 <http://www.myinsulators.com/commokid/telephones/1960s_telephone_ads.htm>.
“Telephone Ads of the 1970’s.” myinsulators.com. 21 Apr. 2009 <http://www.myinsulators.com/commokid/telephones/1970s_telephone_ads.htm>.
"There's Something New in Telephone Booths." The Phonebooth. 28 Apr. 2009 <http://phonebooth.org/phoneadverts/telephonebooths/something-new-in-telephone-booths.html>.
Written by Amanda Shaw