Vintage Retro Rotary Phones australian

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Telecom Australia - 800 Series

800 Series ACF (Automatic ColorFone)

Released in 1962 in the PMG days, this phone was an Australian-designed model taking advantage of modern plastics and electronics. The original version, the 801 series, is distinguished by having the numbers around the outside of the dial. There were actually three dials used in the range as a standard Australian dial was not yet being manufactured. Each dial came with an adapter plate with the numbers correctly located for that model of dial. When the standard dial became available in 1970 there was a minor update and the the numbers were moved under the fingerholes and the new range designated 802 series. This did away with the need for the adapter plate. This caused some problems for the visually impaired and Telecom released a Large Number Ring, a plastic ring with raised black numbers which simply stuck on to the face of the phone around the dial. Many models were derived from this basic phone. Some examples are listed on the next page.



Left: 801 series. Strictly speaking these belonged to the Australian Post Office range but continued in service for many years. They were gradually replaced with the 802 series (below) on maintenance, but no concerted effort was made.






Light Ivory was the most popular color. Mist Grey was extremely unpopular and was mostly used as a base for the modified phones produced for other purposes. It was intended as a standard office color. Lacquer Red found a small market among customers who preferred a stronger color, as did Fern Green. Topaz Yellow was probably the second most popular choice after Ivory, but in strong sunlight it was found to suffer the fading problem that has haunted Australian phones from the first bakelite models. The black colour was rarely listed in the brochures, although it was issued in both 801 and 802. This reflected a small but steady demand for what was really a rather attractive phone. An extremely rare version was also produced in a clear case for training and display.

In Melbourne in the early 1970s an enterprising Telecom Business Office was offering 801s in the colours of local football teams. This was achieved by mixing and matching standard phone cases and handsets. The practice was soon stopped on orders from Headquarters. Many 800s were unofficially fitted with a pushbutton dialling unit in place of the dial. This unit came from suppliers like Dick Smith Electronics, and was not an Approved Attachment. It was , however, a sign of the times and encouraged the development of the TouchFone range.

In the early 1970s an official-looking instruction was issued regarding a new "left-handed telephone", which featured a reversed dial (achieved by modifying the photo) and the handset cord on the left side of the phone (achieved by turning the handset around). The date, April 1st, should have given it away as an April Fool's joke but some Telecom Business Offices actually took orders before another VERY official instruction put an end to it.














801 / 802 Colour range, shown here in the 802 series:

Top Row: Lacquer Red, Topaz Yellow, Mist Grey

Bottom Row: Black, Light Ivory, Fern Green.

From Telecom Product manual, approx. 1976

Telecom Australia - Other 800 Phones 1


Other 800 Phones

Fig 11: 811 CB Verson. Issued in all colours, especially for use on manual switchboards. As PABXs and STD came into wide acceptance the CB phones were replaced with auto models. They are now uncommon.

Fig. 12: 8111 / 8121 CB phone, fitted with recall button (at left usually, but on the right on this example) . This is a typical example - the recall button could be fitted to just about any 800 model as provision had been made in the case moulding for it.

Fig. 13: 8028 fitted with control lock to disable the dial . Listed as ACF CL&K. These phones were very popular in the early days of STD.

Fig. 14: 8221 Two Line Telephone with Hold, Line and Recall buttons. Officially issued in Grey only, but like so many of these phones other colours appeared from time to time as “one-offs”. It depended on how friendly you were with your local technician.

Fig. 15: 1/2 Intercom (pronounced One Bar Two). A one line, 2-telephone intercom system for internal use only. In the usual exciting choice of grey.

Fig. 16: 8241 fitted with switch and socket for operator’s headset. The headset was a lightweight early plastic model.

Fig. 17: 8322 . Hearing Aid Phone. Originally called (unflatteringly) the Deaf Aid Phone. It was fitted with an amplifier (volume control at bottom left corner), hearing aid coupler coil in the receiver, and a switch to change between the internal bell and an external Gliding Tone Caller, a variable frequency tone ringer. It worked well and was quite popular. Its price was subsidised by Telecom as a public service.

Fig 18: 8501 / 8502: The main phone of the 1/3 (pronounced One Bar Three) intercom system. Designed to handle two extensions, both of which could be external two-wire. The first issue was plagued with problems. Customers had to provide a power point for its use, the external extensions were prone to lightning strikes, and customers complained about the colour choice - as usual , grey.

Fig 19: 4/10 Party Line phone with a generator built into the plinth under the phone. Grey only (surprised?). The magneto was used for signalling other parties on a party line connected to an automatic exchange. They only had a short life (about a decade) as Telecom made a concerted effort to get rid of all party lines as soon as cables could be laid to replace them. Surprisingly this caused some opposition, as calls to other parties on the same line had been free. They were now chargeable. The phone is rare.

Fig 20: Yellow Pages Survey Phone. A small batch of these bright yellow phones was built to count incoming calls on special Yellow Pages customer lines to measure the effectiveness of Yellow Pages advertising. They are quite rare.




By the time the T200 telephone was introduced as a replacement, over 8 million 800 series phones were in use. Some millions were recovered and sold off to countries like Russia, Poland, Tanzania and a number of developing countries where dial technology was still quite acceptable. Feral 800s still turn up today in Australia, many in working condition - a tribute to the quality of the design.

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