AT&T Video: Novelty phones of the 1970s

AT&T Mickey Mouse phone, 1979. That Mickey, always looking for a hand-out.

Ring, ring! Will somebody answer that damned phone?! You’ll have to pick it up as the thing is ringing throughout the whole house and there’s no answering machine.

Here’s a great find (Thanks, emmapeel007!) – an AT&T ‘Design Line’ sales film from 1979 showing off the company’s catalog of novelty phones. “Snoopy”, “Mickey Mouse”, the “Early American” and futuristic “Telstar” styles are all on display. This sort of “lost tech” and questionable fashion fascinates me. You may find yourself riveted as well. View it below.

*If you cannot view the video jump here to watch it.

AT&T Archives Quote:

“AT&T always rented their phones to users. But in the 1970s, they tried a novelty line of phones that customers could actually buy, in stores. For these ‘Design Line, phones, the users were essentially buying just the housing — the working guts of the phones were still under the Bell System maintenance and ownership contracts.

This film profiles the range of models available in 1979 — both push-button and dial telephones, including the ‘Snoopy’, ‘early American’, ‘stowaway’, “celebrity”, ‘Mediterranean’, ‘candlestick’, ‘chestphone’, ‘antique gold’, ‘Mickey Mouse’, ‘noteworthy’, ‘coquette’, ‘Telstar’, and the popular ‘Exeter’, which had interchangeable faceplates, including a crazy rainbow diffraction grating option. You not only get to see the imagined home décor that would have gone with these phones, but who the Bell System imagined was the ideal user for each.

These phones were not cheap — prices in 1976 for these phones ranged from $39.95 for the basic Exeter to a whopping $109.95 for the rococo Antique Gold model. That’s about $150 to over $400 today. Not that much more than a smartphone, but, of course, no touchscreen. No ringtones.”

AT&T Snoopy phone, 1979. Note the Pele (left) and Star Wars (right) posters.

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