April 1956 Popular Electronics
Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles
published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.
If you thought that custom ringtones have only been around since the mobile phone, you will be surprised to learn that according to this news brief in a 1956 issue of Popular Electronics, Bell Telephone Labs was experimenting with such features. Bell was exploiting the convenience, small size, and relatively inexpensive transistor to enable customers with deeper pockets to hear something other than the standard mechanical bell ringer. The irony is, of course, that some people nowadays use a ringtone in their smartphones that sounds like the old mechanical ringer. Evidently the custom ringtones never went over too big for Bell because I don't remember ever hearing one in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, and there is not a plethora of them for sale on eBay today. Being able to differentiate your own phone's ring in the midst of an environment with potentially a dozen or more other phones was not exactly a huge concern then. BTW, it wasn't until 1982 that Bell Telephone was broken up into regional 'Baby Bells.'
Telephones Will "Ring" With Musical Tones
Telephone users will welcome the news that the Bell Telephone Laboratories is experimenting with a new device that will eliminate the b-r-r-r-ing of present-day instruments. The gadget, using transistors, will produce pleasant musical tones resembling those of a clarinet. Sound emanates through the louvered area at the base of the set, shown in the photo with a white background.
This device requires less than 1 volt for operation; the ordinary telephone bell needs about 85 volts. A full-scale field trial of the new equipment is expected to provide enough technical data and customers' reactions to help determine its future.
Posted February 22, 2017