A Gallery of Gadget Prototypes

Steven Leckart of Wired gathered photos of and information about six gadget prototypes that have been preserved long after the products developed from them became ubiquitous. These include the first push-button phone, dating back to 1948:

In the late 1940s, switchboard operators already had a more efficient push-button setup that used tones instead of electrical pulses to signal each digit. So Bell Labs engineers set out to adapt that system for customers. Gutting a Western Electric 302 tabletop rotary, they installed a set of ten 3-inch metal reeds. Pressing a button plucked a specific reed, producing a unique sound. Thirty-five test units were deployed to phone company employees’ homes in Media, Pennsylvania, but the yearlong trial was a bust. Moving or bumping the phone warped the reeds, and any static on the line—or even talking—while dialing caused interference. Push-button phones didn’t become consumer-ready until 1963, when solid-state electronics replaced the reeds, generating foolproof digital tones.

Link via GearFuse | Photo: Dan Forbes

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