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The Wonderful World of Rotary Dials


These are pictures of some wierd dials I have seen recently for sale on eBay.

11 Digit Dials?

Click here to see larger image   An 11 digit dial made by Automatic Electric. These dials were mostly used in communications equipment for functions like radio channel selecting. They operate like normal dials, the dial digit marked "A" makes 11 pulses.
Click here to see larger image   A telephone set that includes the above dial. This appears to be a control-head for a business two-way radio system.
Click here to see larger image   Another 11 digit dial made by Automatic Electric. This dial has a more traditional "0" digit rather than "10", but it is numbered in the rarer reverse white on black.
Click here to see larger image   Another 11 digit dial, manufacture unknown. The designation card says Dial "9-11". Is that the 9 digit once and then the digit marked "11" once? Or the 1 digit twice? Could this dial be more confusing?
Click here to see larger image   Not to be outdone, here is a dial from Germany that has 12 digits!

Dialing Long Distance

Click here to see larger image   A dial from a phone used in Oslo, Norway. These dials, while numbered backwards, made the same pulses as standard dials (first digit above the finger stop pulsed 1, next pulsed 2, etc.)

Dials numbered this way were also used in New Zealand.
Click here to see larger image   A dial from England. Like American dials, they skipped the letters Q and Z, but notice how they also did not mark the letter O on the number 6, I assume to avoid confusion with the number zero.
Click here to see larger image   A dial from Australia. The single letters with each digit correspond to letters used to identify the ringing codes of stations on a party line. Notice that not all of the letters correspond with the letters on an American dial.
Click here to see larger image   A dial from a phone made in China. Chinese and Japanese numerals 0 through 9 are very similar, but I believe this dial is Chinese based on the 4 character.

Other interesting dials

Click here to see larger image   What's wrong with this dial? This is a 500D set made by Northern Electric for the Bell System in Canada. Northern Electric sets are generally identical to Western Electric, except for company markings. But, notice this dial doesn't say "Operator" below the "0". They speak English and French in Canada, so not having the word "Operator" on the dial was how they dealt with having to cover it in both languages.
Click here to see larger image   Interestingly, Northern Electric did this from the time of its earliest sets. Here is the dial that would have been used on a Northern Electric 302 "Lucy" phone in Canada. Note the early bi-lingual designation card.
Click here to see larger image   Stromberg Carlson sets were eventually identical to Western Electric, but in the early years of their 500 and 554 sets, their dials had the "0" digit at 6 o'clock like Automatic Electric, but unlike Automatic Electric, they originally opted for horizontal writing, as opposed to writing following around the dial edge.
Click here to see larger image   This recent telephone set emulates the style of phones from the 60's. Unfortunately, as the wording on the dial became displaced by the differing digit location than an original dial, the word "Operator" is now on the other side of the dial, and in emulating the original dial design, they opted to keep it printed from bottom to top, which is inappropriate for the left side of the dial, where it now appears to be printed backwards.


Updated December 22, 2010





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