24 Comments

  1. That toy appeared in Toy Story 3, which came out in 2010… doesn’t prove anything, but the toy was probably popular for a long while after actual rotary phones disappeared.

  2. I’ve seen these a few times in the last decade. Here’s one you can buy at Amazon.

    Of course, you can buy anything at Amazon, but it has 1400+ ratings, so it’s a pretty popular item.

  3. My kids (6 and 2) have this same classic toy, both a version from when I was a kid in the early 80’s and a new version that my early-30’s co-worker got for them as a Christmas present. They even realized it was supposed to be a phone, despite the fact that we have never had a phone with a traditional handset.

  4. Fisher-Price apparently still makes this toy — in fact they make at least two versions:
    The “retro” version:

    … and the “new look” version:

  5. jajizi: The “new look” has a dial?

    Eugene: I suppose they had seen dial phones on the TV. (Of course, I don’t know how often you watch old movies or old TV shows.)

  6. Jajizi , thanks for those pictures. Ed, I was also puzzled about the new look idea for that model, but notice the handset is in the Princess style.

  7. Yes, I got beat to it. I was going to say that you can buy one right now. https://www.thebay.com/product/fisher-price-chatter-telephone-fgw66-0600091185482.html

    A couple of points on this:
    1. To be a toy, the kid doesn’t need to know it’s a telephone. It’s a wheeled pull-along toy with a bit you can spin and another bit you can pick up and it has lots of colours and a face on it. Still plenty to interest an infant.
    2. A kid doesn’t have to have a lot of experience with telephones to know what they are and how they work. I think I’ve been on a horse three times in my life (unsure, very young, they were pony rides). I’ve been in horse drawn carriages, hay wagons and sleighs a few times. However, I understand fully that people have ridden and can still ride horses, they have saddles and reins and I know you have to hook up horses to wagons to make them go. Got it from books, TV, movies, and seeing it being done.

  8. As toddlers, both of my children were able to recognize (as name) drawings of such “classic” telephones (in various picture books), despite the fact that we did not have anything like them anywhere in our own house.

  9. I’ve probably mentioned this before here, but…

    When my son was 6, in the late 1990s, we came across a rotary phone in a mall. He knew what it was, of course, having seen them in old tv shows and in books, but he also insisted he knew how to use it. “Go ahead,” I told him, and he proceeded to call home and say hello to my wife.

    He couldn’t explain why he knew how to do it, and that’s just going to remain a family mystery.

  10. You can’t dial the operator on this phone…only nine holes for the digits 1-9.

    Sometimes there used to be a lock in the first hole in a rotary dial phone to prevent you from dialing a phone call.
    I learned how to click each number on the button on the top–click seven times for a ‘7’, for example. Took practice.

    One time on the Spanish Steps in Rome I surreptitiously called Belgium from a flower vendor’s locked phone next to his stall to arrange a date for the weekend with my new girlfriend I met traipsing around Europe back in the day. Ha!
    Another time called South Africa to let a new friend talk to her mother from the landlady’s locked phone in London. The friend was flabbergasted that I could do that.
    Clicks don’t work now for calling; they have to be PERFECTLY timed, such that no human can do that!

  11. Do toy phones of this sort have cords connecting to the headset? I can’t imagine the upside, and it seems unnecessarily dangerous.

  12. They do, but short. Ours was not elastic and not springy (shoelace-like). From what I remember, the primary danger was using the handset for a club on your siblings.

  13. dollarbill, technology has bypassed your skills, sadly. But there was a way to do even more, with portable touchtone dialers (though really skilled phone hackers could whistle the correct tones to control the telco computers, I’ve heard). http://www.paul-f.com/softouch.htm

    Later on, there were smaller ones the size of a pager. https://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/pocket-tone-dialer-w-memory-telephone-dialer

    They were often marketed as personal speed-dialers, but I’m sure a lot were purchased by phreaks. I imagine you can get apps that generate tones now. If one cared to do so.

  14. Half a century ago, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs made and sold Blue Boxes to place free long-distance telephone calls. Then they switched over to Apples.

  15. Yep. From what I read, a lot of phreaks would just use their power of making free long-distance calls to call other phreaks and talk phreaking. They did it because they thought it was a fun puzzle to work on.

  16. These days, that activity wouldn’t be called “phreaking”, it would be called “hacking”, and the “phreaks” would be doing time, not calls.

  17. Wow – we moved quickly from the Chatter Telephone (in stock at Target right now) to Captain Crunch, 2600 Hz and blue boxes. If anyone from AT&T is still trying to figure out who was emulating John Draper from the payphone bank at 293 Benedict Ave, Tarrytown, NY in the early 70s, it wasn’t me.

    See also Fisher-Price clocks with hands, record player and pocket camera.

  18. My niece and nephew – now in the late 20s/early 30s but born long after dial phones mostly disappeared – had no trouble figuring out to dial the rotary dial phone in my mom’s den when they were maybe 5 and 2 years old (and figured out how to move furniture to be able to climb up and reach it).

    Robert’s niece – now 18 – who was adopted from China and had only seen cell phones or push button phones, had no problem figuring out that the toy phone I have (part of my teddy bear collection) was suppose to be a telephone and how to dial it when she was 2 and a half and in the US less than a year.

    My niblings – well, they do come from a family of watchers of old movies. His niece – they don’t watch old movies – though niece does now – we have given her a lot of old movies on DVDs over the years at her request.

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