TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Classic Six-Button Keysets - Cost During 1970s?

Classic Six-Button Keysets - Cost During 1970s?
13 Aug 2005 18:30:30 -0700

Back in the 1970s, a standard fixture in almost every business (and
even in some wealthy homes) was a key telephone. This has six buttons
along the time so that the phone could handle more than one outside
line, intercom lines, and HOLD function. I was wondering what basic
key systems cost in the 1970-1975 time frame.

From what I saw, the pricing was a la carte--every little feature was
a charge. One large organization did not bother with line lamps to
save money. The "wink-hold" feature, where the line lamp blinked
slowly when the line was on-hold, was optional. I never saw a system
without a HOLD button, but apparently even that was optional. (I
believe later systems, such as ComKey had package prices).

Anyway, would anyone know what typical pricing was in the 1970-1975
time frame, for the following:

- "Hunting" feature so busy calls would go to the next line.

- Two lines, two keysets, line lamps that would blink on ring, but not

- Wink-hold feature.

- Basic manual intercom (push-button to sound buzzer). Sometimes there
was a SIG button on the phone, sometimes there was a tiny panel with
pushbuttons mounted next to the phone.

- Dial intercom, one common channel, one digit automatically sounded
desired buzzer.

- Other features of the six button keyset?

- If a residence had a key system was the cost cheaper than a business?

Around the 1960s the Bell System came out with a fancier system known
as the "Call Director". Did this have any advanced features or did it
just offer more line buttons? I know the basic Call Director shell
was used as a PBX operator's console, but that was a different phone
and included an additional lamp for supervision.

Six button keysets are rare to see today, having been replaced by more
modern systems. Even the Bell System, before divesture, had developed
several new lines, such as ComKey and phones with more buttons
(identified by a larger square button with the light within it. Both
wall and desk sets had a long row of buttons along the top of the
phone. These were out early enough that they were made in rotary dial
as well as touch tone.

[TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: I have seen a few very elaborate and
very complex (regards wiring) six-buton sets. One of the strangest I
ever saw had six buttons (five lines plus hold) but the 'lines' were
very special purpose: from left to right, the hold button (red
plastic) was followed by 'intercom' for an open-loop arrangement (just
battery to provide talking voltage on to a similar set in a place
called 'radio station booth' and also 'box office' and 'stage left'
[anyone using one of the instruments at 'radio booth' or 'box office'
or 'stage left' could talk to or be heard by persons at the the other
instruments by going off hook]) the fourth button (or third 'line')
was 'extension 263' from the building PBX. There was a jack on the
backside to plug in a headphone for handsfree conversation either on
the 'extension 263' or the 'intercom'; either of which could be put
on hold to answer the other line; the switchhook on the left plunger
was plastic and could be raised up to serve a way to swap between the
phone receiver or the headset; and last but not least, a 'beehive
lamp' so the phone did not actually ring (which might disturb
something in process in the auditorium) but just flashed in cadence
with the silent bell 'ringing'. Apparently the principal user of that
instrument used it to stay in touch with the box office, the other
side of the stage or perhaps the radio station booth, to be informed
when the radio link was on the air or not. This was in around 1960,
and instead of the 'square' buttons on the bottom, they were the older
style 'round' buttons. They told me they had to pay Illinois Bell
seventy five cents per month for the intercom loop, which I presume
was to maintain the power supply and the wiring of same. They paid a
dollar per month for the rental of the operator-style headset and
about the same amount for the beehive lamp. PAT]

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