If vintage phones ring your bell, Seattle's Connections Museum is the place to be!
Operating for 30 years in Georgetown, the Connection Museum has phones for EVERYONE. Think funktastic donut phones, early phones, candlestick phones, a real English phone booth, a phone company Tonka Truck - and even the world's first cordless phone - that was designed right here in Seattle!
“The restaurant at the Space Needle rotates, so they couldn’t use a phone with a cord on it," said Peter Amstein, associate director of the museum. "They wanted a way for people to make calls from their table at the top of the Space Needle."
Only five of them were made, and one is at the Communications Museum. The latest and greatest of yesteryear are all here - including a shell phone. No, not a cell phone. A phone that is inside of a large shell.
“[The shell phone] was originally in a Tiki Bar on Pier 51 in Seattle, a place called the Polynesia," said Amstein. "When it closed down one of our volunteers rescued it.”
What about the inside of an old payphone? Have you ever seen one?!
“One of the skills you had to have as a telephone operator from the very beginning up to the 1960s was listening to the sounds of coins dropping into the phone and keeping a running total in your head," said Amstein. The sounds of the different coins would tell you when the person put in the correct amount of money for their call. A nickel rang the bell once, a dime twice and a quarter hit a little gong.
The Connections Museum has preserved a ton of old telephones, but they also have the gear that makes them tick! For example - an old-school switchboard used to connect calls in the 1920s.
As technology boomed, next came a panel switch, which is a electro-mechanical operator-less switchboard. SCIENCE!
“Early computer science, telecommunications, even the cell phone in your pocket, you can see where it all came from here,” said Amstein.
Excuse me while I go scroll on my smart phone now.