Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The "French Phone"

In early 1927, the New Yorker begins mentioning a revolutionary telephone that everybody wants to have. Called "The French Phone," I didn't know what the heck it was until I ran across this cartoon this morning:

It seems this type of phone -- with the receiver and headset combined into one section, the way we know it today -- cost more to install and caused minor havoc with the Bell Telephone company.

To get around the higher cost, people bought cheaper French Phones made by third-party companies and installed them personally. But Bell had a contract in its clause that nobody had paid attention to previously: you were not allowed to use non-Bell accessories with Bell's telephone service.

From the sounds of it, this prohibition was pretty much unenforcable. It may have begun the breakdown of Bell's phone-and-service monopoly. If you're interested in learning more about early telephones, check out this site. But I warn you: you'll suffer a disturbing MIDI loop of "Puttin' On the Ritz."

PS: Why was it called "The French Phone?" Apparently it resembled phones in Europe. What that means exactly I'm not sure.

4 comments:

VanillaJ said...

Oh, when will things Canadian be associated with luxury, fashionableness and quality? No, I didn't say "wishful thinking". OK, Canadian bacon, that's one. Maple syrype, that's two...The French have only to tag "it's French!" onto something, and we buy it!

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Canadian beer, maybe? Aha, I've got it: RIM and the Blackberry. Cover FX foundation. MAC. Oh yes, and Inscriber. :)

As for the French, hmmm. In this case it wasn't the French who named the phone the "French Phone," it was the Bell Telephone Company. But your point still stands!

d3 said...

You are absolutely right VanillaJ.

A few years ago, we had an elderly great aunt who could no longer be cared for at home and had to go into a nursing home. Around the time she went into the home, she started having trouble with (ahem) continence.

Her daughter bought some "adult diapers" and took them to her for her to use. She wanted nothing to do with it... it was too demeaning for her. Meanwhile, she was still having "accidents".

About a week later, her daughter bought another brand of adult diapers, but when she took them to my great aunt, she showed her the French side of the box on which it said "culottes" and told her these were different from the other ones... these were "French culottes." She was more than happy to wear them. (Did I mention she was a bit of a snob?)

Muffy St. Bernard said...

Your aunt's daughter is brilliant. And that's also a very humane solution! I'm glad it worked (and was so simple)

I don't know how I would behave in such a situation, and hopefully I won't have to think about it anytime soon...