Pre-production, prototype and display telephones.
As the telephone industry matured and production volumes of phones were measured in millions, the design and manufacturing processes became increasingly organized and structured.
Several major steps often included the following:
1. Design Concepts: multiple competing paper designs.2. Model: usually in wood or plaster, non-functioning.
3. Working Model: hand-built in very small quantities.
4. Field Trial: using small batches built in a model shop.
Each step involved increasing cost, so only the best designs moved forwand and very few made it all the way through to volume production and customer announcement.
Along the way, display models were built to show the cosmetics of the phone. Some were non-functioning sets with only the externally visible components, or contained actual dials and were weighted appropriately so that dialing tests could be conducted. Others were functioning phones with clear plastic cases, so viewers could see the internal construction.
Even after announcement, display models were important marketing tools and were used in company offices, trade shows, and public events, such as World's Fairs. Many of these looked like actual phones but were missing the active electrical/electronic components inside.
I've started collecting and organizing info on phones in these categories -- especially those made by Western Electric from the 1930s through 70s. Any and all help is appreciated -- photos, document scans, rumors, and (of course) actual phones are welcome. This is a work in progress.
Link to Western Electric Prototypes Overview
Tomorrow Calling Display
Experimental Phones Display
Disneyland House of Tomorrow Display
Western Electric Design Models
Western Electric Picturephones
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