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Frequently Asked Questions

Will my Model 500 Rotary Dial Telephone connect to a modern Plain Old Telephone System (POTS)?

YES!-- Earlier models (like the 1940's "Lucy" phone) sometimes have trouble connecting to modern telephone exchanges but the Model 500's are so reliable that millions remain in service around the world. Telephone exchanges still detect rotary pulses although you may have to pay for this feature if you are a business using a switchboard to access the phone network. But we have never encountered this problem for American homeowners using a POTS line.

Are Model 500 Rotary Dial Phones really reliable?

YES!-- In emergencies like the September 11 attacks and Hurricane Katrina, cell phones have proven absolutely unreliable in communicating with the outside world due to the systems having their towers go down or being overwhelmed with calls.

Why do these phones work in an Electrical Outage?

Because they are NOT powered by the electric company! Unlike many modern phones of today that require AC electricity to make their features work, these phones run only off of the DC electricity provided by the phone line to your house. If a telephone pole is down then the electric wires are grounded out but the telephone wires are not (as long as there is no break in the wire) because they are sheathed in plastic so they are not actually touching "ground". The switchboards at the telephone exchange require AC current but they have backup generators that can operate for a long time as the electric company tries to restore power.

Will these phones work outside the United States (UK, Canada, Germany, etc.)?

YES! -- we have sold hundreds of these phones outside the United States to satisfied customers but you may need to buy a special adapter from a hardware store in order to connect our phone plug into to your home's phone jack.

Will these phones work with DSL or Cable Phone (VOIP) systems?

Maybe?? -- Our phones will work with your home's standard telephone system but were never intended for use on a computer network like the Internet. When this phone was introduced, home computers were only talked about in Science Fiction novels.

We have found that a DSL filter usually allows our phones to connect to a DSL line without any problems. As to VOIP systems (i.e. Vonage, MagicJack, your cable company's phone system), we have seen our phones work with some VOIP systems and not with others. It is not the phone's fault! Many of these new internet phone systems are poorly engineered and some cannot "backward integrate" telephones in use before the Internet Age.

DSL seems to work better than VOIP from what we have seen.

Oops-- I have a VOIP system-- What can I do?

Before buying from us, you need to ask your internet system provider if there is an adapter needed to make the rotary dial phone work with their system. Not only may their system not recognize the pulse dialing, but older phones required a lot more power to make the ringer work. If you cannot use an actual rotary dial phone, then Check Out Our Replica Telephones! -- they have touch tone buttons where the dial goes and they will work with the new VOIP systems.

You may also want to consider returning to a regular phone system or switch to DSL-- because of their dependence on electricity, VOIP and cell phones are HIGHLY UNRELIABLE in emergencies!

It seems wrong to us that cable companies are allowed to sell you their VOIP systems without advertising the fact that the only call it won't make properly is to 9-1-1 Emergency Services. Do you really save enough money on long distance to offset the danger to you and your family that the 9-1-1 Operator will not be able to locate you in an emergency?

Do you sell any other types of phones?

No -- We decided to specialize in the Model 500 Desk phone because of its reliabilty. Some of the earlier rotary dial phone models have trouble connecting to modern phone networks and the rotary dial wall phones are not a large enough market for us to fool with. We do provide Hollywood with a variety of models to buy or rent as well as our expertise in selecting phones appropriate to the era that the production is set in. We also provide a variety of replica rotary dial telephones (including wall phones) on our sister websites: BlackTelephones.com and Phonetique.com

Hollywood? How many productions have you worked with?

About a dozen or so at this point. We don't even know the names of all of them. Our biggest client to date has been U.R.O.K. Productions which is responsible for the TV drama Mad Men on AMC.

How do I change the Center Card? I want to put my own phone number inside the dial.

It is pretty easy. Take a paperclip and put it in the little hole on the plastic dial that is between the nine and zero. Press down on the clip as you rotate the dial normally and the plastic dial should rotate right off! Once you have put your new phone number in place, simply put the zero hole on the nine dot of the phone's dialface and rotate CounterClockWise while applying pressure. You should hear a click as the dial's retaining tab snaps into place. The Bell System Memorial has some pictures of the process under "Plastic Finger Wheel" heading of its Rotary (Pulse) Dial page.

Do you sell the cards with the numbers already on them?

Not currently. To see a selection of dial card blanks that you can choose from to do it yourself, visit the Telephone Archive website

My Ringer isn't working... What can I do now?

Assuming you bought the phone from us, (and that you don't have a VOIP system) the phone and ringer will have been checked twice before being shipped so it should work. Once in a blue moon there is a technical problem that we didn't catch but that is VERY rare. If any of the following steps get the phone to ring then the problem is not with the phone... which means that the problem lies elsewhere. If none of this works, contact us for more information.

  • First, make sure that the ringer volume control wheel on the bottom of the phones is moved to the loudest position. You can even try it on the halfway position because sometimes we have found that the loudest position actually muffles the sound of the bells.
  • Try unplugging all other phones and equipment on that line and try again. When these phones were built they were expected to be the only phone in the house (which is why the ringers are so loud). It takes a lot of voltage to get the ringer to work and the more devices in your house that share the line then the less voltage your Model 500 has to work with.
  • Next try plugging it into a different wall jack in your home and test it again. If it works then it means that you have a bad wall jack at the original location.
  • If it still doen't ring, take it to someone else's house in a different neighborhood and try there. If it rings then it means that you have something wrong with the phone system at your house and you need to have the phone company come out to check. It could be as simple as they need to turn on the pulse dialing feature for your location but it could be something more.

How do I clean my vintage Rotary Dial Phone?

Some of our competitors use plastic polishes, buffer wheels, and other very technical tools to get a "like new" appearance but we do not. For one thing it drives up the cost of their phones and we want ours to be affordable. Secondly, we think it is bad business to provide a phone in a condition that a buyer will never be able to reproduce. These were (and are) household appliances and they were meant to be kept clean with common household cleaners. Simply wipe them down with Windex and polish them with Pledge or Armor All. If you get paint or something else on the plastic that won't come off with Windex, try Rubbing Alcohol.

NEVER USE ACETONE OR FINGERNAIL POLISH REMOVER!

What are the best stories that you have heard from your customers?

We hear back from many of our customers thanking us for our phones, and we appreciate all of their stories but the ones we have enjoyed the most are:

  • The woman who called us the day after her phone arrived to tell us that she was calling from a house with no electricity! On our Phone!
  • The grandparents who tell us about teaching their grandchildren how to actually "dial" a telephone-- you would be surprised at how few children know!
  • The people who tell us how happily their parents with early Alzheimer's responded when they got their rotary dial phone. Many of them had given up on using modern phones because they cannot figure out all of the buttons on them and which buttons need to be punched to make the stupid things work! But they remembered how to dial our Rotary Dial phones!

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