Glossary of Antique Phone Collecting Terms

Back to antique telephone index. See also basics of telephone collecting.

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  • Anti-Sidetone
    A telephone with an additional circuit designed to improve sound quality by cutting out 'sidetone,' which resulted from earlier phones having their receiver and transmitter on the same circuit.
  • Bakelite
    An early form of plastic, this phenolic resin was invented in 1907 by L.H. Baekland. It was used heavily in the 1930s to make phones, as well as jewelery, radio and many other objects.
  • Bulldog transmitter
    The squat, bowl-like transmitter that replaced the delicate screw-in transmitters on candlesticks and wall phones before the development of handsets containing both receiver and transmitter (phone with bulldog).
  • Butt set
    A special handset used by phone company employees to test lines. Name comes from 'butt in' to a conversation. Butt sets have been made since the early 1900s and generally have a cord which terminates in two alligator clips.
  • Common battery
    A phone system where phones are all powered by current provided from the central office through the phone line, rather than by a battery and hand crank attached to the phone ('local battery').
  • Fingerstop
    The small metal piece on a rotary dial which stops your finger from turning the dial any further clockwise.
  • Local battery
    A phone system where each telephone is powered locally by battery attached to the phone or a hand cranked magneto. The battery provided the juice to carry the voice signals and the crank provided the current to ring the operator. Local battery systems later switched to the more efficient common battery.
  • Magneto
    Small electrical generator hand-cranked to send a ringing signal to the central office or to a subscriber.
  • New Old Stock (NOS)
    A phone or part which is in original, mint condition, and even still in its original box or wrapping, because it has never been used.
  • Outside terminal (OST)
    A receiver where the wires connect to two terminals at the top of the receiver, rather than inside the receiver itself.
  • Perch
    On candlestick phones, this is the joint that connects the shaft to the transmitter.
  • Subset
    aka ringer box, this is where the ringer and other electronics went on phones built prior to the late 1930s.