Dial DIY for Retro.

So it turns out that the phone handset is an actual antique, and there are no smarts in the cable! The mini stereo jack is wired straight through to the four pins on the RJ11 on the handset in the order "ring, middle, tip, ring". So it's trivially easy to wire up one of these yourself if you have a handset already.

This means that the "answer/hangup" buttons on wired cell phone headsets must work by inline signaling: my guess is that they just send a momentary break.

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26 Responses:

  1. hatter says:

    Would depend on the handset - looking at some treo hands-free kits, they appear to have 4-pole jacks, sounds like your handset is using a 3-pole one beause it doesn't need better, and shorting the last one doesn't make any difference. I've taken apart I think a samsung one, because I needed a 4 pole, 2.5mm jack in a hurry, and everywhere was out of stock of the component, they're not the easiest thing to track down. Sonyericsson and the like go the opposite way, custom connector but lots of spare pins for answer/divert/volume/etc.

    the hatter

  2. vxo says:

    I've seen the three prong connector on headsets that had the talk/hangup (or PTT, for Nexhell) button. It connects a resistance (1k doesn't sound all that unlikely?) across some combination of the signal lines when that's pressed.

    If I can dig one up around here, I will reverse-engineer the mechanism in the name of SCIENCE!!

  3. The thought that, somewhere, landfills are being filled with old telephones stripped of their handset by the hipster accessories industry, makes me sad.

    • semiclever says:

      As opposed to the landfills being filled with old telephones, handset intact?

      • The probability of a vintage phone (i.e., an old phone older than a certain age) being dumped in the landfill (as opposed to being picked up by an antique collector or retrofetishist) is considerably less than 1.0. Cutting off the handset puts it pretty close to 1.0.

        • alisgray says:

          the fact that people might actually recycle this very sturdy tech, and treat their personal electronic toys as tools to be modified instead of magic items, these things make me very happy. anybody who's likely to cut the handset off a phone (and hey, didn't they have connectors that you pop in and out? later ones did, anyway!) is likely to find a use for the bell, the dial, the magnets, probably the body as well.

        • cananian says:

          Um, hello? How many retrofetishists do you think there *are* in America? I think you need to get off the coast and go visit the center of the country some.

  4. purple_b says:

    I spawned this..

  5. strspn says:

    Would someone please post the graphs from page two and three of this California distributional analysis of tax systems, here? I would but I'm too time-poor at the moment.

    Obligatory on-topic exhibit a, exhibit b and exhibit c.

  6. baconmonkey says:

    you need a shoulder rest for that.

    also, you need to mod one of these into a charger base.

    or for even older-skool flavor, get a sultan phone or french handset

  7. springdew says:

    http://www.mockia.com - full desk phones, brickphones, banana phones, etc. Found one on ebay and went to the parent site.

    • strspn says:

      That is very, very nice, but I would prefer to wire the whole house's RJ-11 telephone net with a cell phone cradle, instead of having to wire the cell phone to one retro phone at a time.

  8. sheilagh says:

    this as a prop for a Get Smart costume (I know, not a shoe phone, but..) .. wherein the costumee sports the cell in a hidden inner pocket and pulls out the clunky old handset and has a REAL (but obviously silly spy-talk) conversation at various intervals .. with ringing to alert those around that the incoming call is real. ooooh! nerd-lust.

  9. njyoder says:

    Bahahahaha. I was using your RSS feed for testing purposes and came across this article. I have to say, I am greatly amused to see that Thinkgeek can not only get away with greatly overpricing stuff, but it can get away with greatly overpricing items that most people would otherwise consider trash. I probably could have told you that that it was an ordinary phone.

    The thing is, a lot of DIY stuff used to interface a "geek gadget" to a non-gadget/non-computer thing is really a lot easier than it looks, it's really just a matter of wiring it properly, possibly with some minimal intermediate circuitry. You should read the make blog (<lj user="make_blog">), it's a DIY blog run by the O'reilly company.

    Now I do have an EE background so I may be biased, BUT a friend of mine, who is CS, was able to figure this out on his own. He ripped the headset off a newer phone (not really different wiring-wise to this one) and basically just connected it directly to the back of his sound card via the microphone input to use it for voice chat.

    • njyoder says:


    • jwz says:

      I don't think it was overpriced at all. It's only cheap if you have all the parts already! I don't have an old phone. Let's say that's $5 (plus $10 in gas to get there.) Oh, then a crimp tool, cable ends, an hour researching what the actual pin-outs are on cell phones and old land-line phones, and the time to actually construct the thing. Not to mention the very real possibility of screwing it up and frying your much-more-expensive cell phone. $35 is a bargain.

      Much like free software, hardware tinkering is only free if your time has no value.