200 TYPE TELEPHONE
The '200 Type' is the generic description for the characteristic pyramid shaped telephones of the late 1920's onwards. This is because the majority of these instruments are 'Number-two-hundred-and-something' in the Post Office numbering scheme.
the first telephone in the range was the Telephone 162 which contradicts the '200' part in
last statement. However it is commonly accepted as a '200 Type', in fact people often
refer to any pyramid shaped Bakelite telephone as a '200 Type', including the Gecophone
(GEC) and single piece bodied Neophone (Siemens Brothers).
The The BPO
considered that the demand for a combined set would be insufficient to justify the
development of a special piece of apparatus... unfortunately the connecting wire between
telephone and Bellset was routed on the outside of the cases and looked rather makeshift.
No provision was made for the addition of switches for use with extension arrangements.
These switches if necessary were provided for in various types of Bellsets made especially
for that purpose (Bellset No's 39, 41 etc).
Like the earlier Telephone No. 162 the Telephone No. 232 could be mounted on top of a bell set but because
more of the telephone electrical components (ASTIC) were now mounted inside the case of
the telephone they were no longer need inside the bell set. Thus the new Bellset No. 26
was introduced which physically looked the same as a Bellset No. 25, but contained less components.
BPO Tele. 162 etc., nicknamed the Pyramid Telephone
This instrument appeared in 1928 following a number of years of research by Siemens Brothers in co-operation with the British Post Office. Designed for use with the Bellset No. 1 or 25, it was electrically similar to the candlestick telephone No. 150. As the transmitter and receiver insets of the new telephone were significantly more sensitive than those of the candlestick predecessors, a transformer (No, 35A) was included in the circuitry to reduce excessive sidetone.
An advertisement for the Siemens Neophone dated July 1929 states that it was "A product of CO-OPERATIVE DEVELOPMENT by the engineers of the Administration and the Manufacturer."
It continues: "The NEOPHONE reaches a high standard of TRANSMISSION EFFICIENCY and ARTICULATION never attained before and positively eliminates Howling, Frying, and Excessive Side Tone, maintaining its efficiency irrespective of the position in which the Microtelephone is held."
The same advertisement includes also an extract from The Times dated 8th May 1929. This commences: "The design of the modified type of telephone, to which the Postmaster-General recently referred in the House of Commons, has now been fully worked out by the Post Office and an order for a substantial number has been placed with a London Manufacturer. It is a reversion to the hand-combination type, superseded 20 or 30 years ago by the pedestal type of telephone now in general use, but greatly improved."
All this underlines the revolutionary nature of this new telephone. Tagged the Neophone by Siemens (neo is Greek for new), this telephone was genuinely novel. Its case employed the relatively new moulded plastic material known as Bakelite, a new type of microphone and reintroduced the handset to British phone users. Its design was highly distinctive (some collectors call it the ‘pyramid’ phone) and Robertson’s book The Story of the Telephone recounts: “It is reliably recorded in the Siemens works, where the now standard type was evolved, that a leading engineer of the company - after a long period of ineffective designing - saw, one day, in a shop window in London an Edwardian silver ink stand (of the type, it is suspected, that Lord Curzon had, ‘made of crystal and gold’, on his desk in his vice-regal palace). Its simple elegant curves pleased him; he bought it, and arranged its adaption to telephone design. And the result all now know. The Post Office accepted it, and standardised it, but rejected Siemens’ trade name for it - the Neophone - and called it austerely the ‘Hand Combination Set’,”
The nickname ‘Pyramid’ is a relatively recent creation used only by some collectors.
Manufactured by: Siemens Brothers, ATE, GEC, PTEW and STC in Britain and by AWA in Australia.. Early models were aluminium castings rather than Bakelite mouldings.
Colours: Black, walnut, mahogany, ivory, Chinese red, Jade green, also spray painted in gold and silver. Olive green has also been seen and a single example in a dark wine red shade has been discovered; this has the manufacturer’s code H38. Furthermore, a Siemens Brothers document states: "The Neophone is stocked in two colours, in black for general use, offices, etc., and in ivory for use in boudoirs, bed rooms and elsewhere where a light colour is desired. It can also be supplied in other colours, or with mottled or jasper effects, provided the quantity in any one style is sufficient". John Markham mentions the preface to a 1936 G.P.O. telephone directory, which states that the new hand combination telephone is available in any colour to order (our emphasis). Presumably they would paint a black one to the customer's requirements if these were not satisfied by a stock colour. Only the black model can be called common; the brown, gold and silver ones are highly prized by collectors, being extremely rare.
Notes: Both the Bellset No. 25 made for use with the Tele. 162 and the Bellset No. 26 made for the later Tele. 232 had raised mouldings and screw hole locations that allowed the telephone to be mounted directly on the bellset, making a ‘combined’ telephone. The assembly looked unwieldy, with its cordage linking the back of the telephone and one end of the bellset, and a short while instructions were given that banned this arrangement. These were not used with drawer bases because the drawer does not fit properly.
George Tondryk notes that the the prototype 162 telephone had a base plate that was only half the depth of the later bases. These bases contained a lead weight to keep it from moving during dialling. Some early Telephone 162 had cast iron bases which were replaced by a Bakelite base with no drawer.
The introduction of the type 162 was done at the same time as of the new type 10 transmitter insert. This insert came in two patterns, the BPO-designed type, and the Siemens type. Both types were standardised as to connections and both were used in the early instruments. The Siemens type is the one which is still commonly found today. (Ref: "A New CB Microtelephone" by A.J. Aldridge, E.J. Barnes and E. Foulger. IPOEE Journal vol. XXII, pp 185-193.)
The handle shape of the microtelephone type 164 was eventually based on a handset design produced by the AT&T company. A number of handset designs had been tried, including those from north American companies. The transmitter was expected to work efficiently at any angle the speaker might hold the handset in relation to his head position.
Punch magazine of November 7, 1934 carried an article entitled "Conversation Piece" on the benefits of contacting the GPO with a view to obtaining a colour version of the telephone (type 162) with the "new" chromium plated dial! The bulk of the page is taken up with a full colour photo of a Chinese red type 162 with white plaited cord and stainless steel finger ring on the dial.
Overseas use: In Australia manufacture of the 162 commenced in 1934. Until about 1940 this instrument was known as a 566 type telephone and later a 162 Part, (the pyramid without Bellset was not a complete telephone - it was therefore a ‘part’ telephone). Prior to the introduction of the 162 telephone in Australia it was possible to purchase the Neophone (and the Gecophone) privately and arrange for its installation by the APO but this ceased with the introduction of the 162 telephone in 1933. Thanks to Geoff Clark for this, who has in his collection a Tele. 162 coded S29 with an aluminium case and Bakelite cradle.
The Australian LB version was the 162MT, which replaced an earlier 'candlestick' and bellset combination. All of the 162MT instruments seen were made from a rebuild of 162AT or 162CBT phones. The new circuit diagram is pasted over the previous 162AT diagram on the base or inside the bellbox but the marking on the base indicate that they were a proper factory rebuild and not just knocked up in the field. There was also a PMG/APO long line version of the 162AT/162CBT but that had a different type number.
A collector reports buying a Telephone 162 (made by GEC in 1935) that had been used in the city of Riga, Latvia. The handset carries the initials PV, standing for Pasta un Telegrafa Virsvalde (Department of Post and Telegraph).
Telephone 200 type Bakelite mouldings
Telephone 200 type drawer base
An insight into the choice of colours is given by these official papers discovered by Laurence Rudolf.
Extracts from Papers Regd. No. 7014 1/32
Samples of coloured telephones No. 162 from Siemens Bros., examined by Mr. Leech, Colonel Purves and Mr. Markwick, 28.8.30
It was thought that the department should not stock more than four (or five) colours, and that special requests for colours not stocked should be dealt with on the basis of special provision at increased charge. In principle the colours stocked should be blended colours, and not matching colours: the latter, including various shades of each of the primary colours should be left for individual treatment. The blending of colours stocked might be Ivory, Mahogany, Old Gold (or Statuary Bronze) and Oxidised silver. The last two are lacquer finishes and Mr. Markwick will endeavour to obtain samples. Five colours were reserved for further inspection - Ivory, Mahogany, Chinese red, Blue and Green. Mr. Markwick will enquire to Mr. Sheeve regarding experience in America of the durability of lacquer finishes and will endeavour to get samples of the colours stocked by AT&T. Co.
(intld) T.F.P. 28.8.30
General Post Office, London.
I have considered further the coloured telephone instruments and my conclusions are as follows. Excluding the American type, which we do not want, there are 8 specimens in my room. Of these I have marked 4 on the labels with a “Yes” and you can go ahead with these. 3 others I have marked “No” and they can be definitely excluded for the present. There remains the green type, and I should like to see if you could get a variant of this in Jade green. I don’t much like the green of the present sample but two of three people I have consulted have suggested that a Jade green instrument might be popular and, in any case, I think its worth trying. If it is practicable, I should like to see a specimen before the colour is finally settled. I have excluded the red sample for the present but I am sure that it might not be popular in some quarters and it can be reconsidered when we have further experiences of the colours selected.
Yours sincerely (Intld) R.M.
Extract from the London Times of 8th May 1929:
HAND COMBINATION TELEPHONES
AN IMPROVED TYPE
The design of the modified type of telephone, to which the Postmaster-General recently referred in the House of Commons, has now being fully worked out by the Post Office engineers and an order for a substantial number has been placed with the London manufacturer. It is a reversion to the hand combination type, superseded 20 or 30 years ago by the pedestal type of telephone now in general use, but greatly improved.
A considerable section of the public has constantly shown a preference for this type known by the Post Office as the microtelephone, and it has been retained in some European countries for that reason, though its efficiency has been found to be 15 per cent or more below that of the pedestal instrument. The recent changes in the situation has resulted from the development, in the research department of the Post Office Engineering Department, of a new type of transmitter, which, when mounted in a microtelephone, apparently secures and maintains the full talking efficiency of the standard pedestal instrument. This new transmitter receives the acoustic energy of the voice upon a light but rigidly constructed diaphragm having an elastic edge, instead of upon the uniformly flexible diaphragm hitherto employed to impress the varying pressures of the air wave of speech upon the small box of carbon granules, which, by consequent changes in resistance, impresses corresponding modulations upon the electric current conveying and reproducing the speech at the distant end of the line. The external form of the new set closely follows a design recently produced by the American Telephone & Telegraph Company and brought into service by the American Bell Companies. The base and cradle of the instrument and its electrical circuit, however, depart widely from the American design and are thought to embody practical points of superiority. The new instrument will be applicable both to the manual and automatic exchange systems. All that is required to adapt it to the automatic system is the addition of a calling dial to a fitting provided in readiness for it on the base of the instrument.
The microtelephone set is necessarily of more expensive construction than the standard pedestal set, and its maintenance cost will also be greater. The Post Office is therefore faced with a position of some difficulty. It has very large stocks of the existing standard instruments, and more than 1,000,000 sets are now in use. It would be a very serious matter financially if the bulk of these instruments were thrown back upon the hands of the Post Office by a widespread demand from the new instruments, particularly as for desk work the pedestal type has long been regarded as the most efficient design obtainable. This difficulty has been met in America by the imposition of an additional rental charge of 50 cents a month, equal to about £1 5s a year for the use of a microtelephone set. It is probable that the American example will be followed and the Post Office will make an extra charge when it places the new instruments in service in this country.
Extract from Siemens Brothers pamphlet no. 2061 on the Neophone, dated "5.31":
SIEMENS LONDON NEOPHONE
New patented design of immersed electrode inset transmitter in conjunction with special anti side-tone circuit and improved receiver result in unrivalled SPEECH TRANSMISSION EFFICIENCY AND SUPERIOR ARTICULATION. HOWLING FRYING AND EXCESSIVE SIDETONE POSITIVELY ELIMINATED. Suitable for central battery manually-operated or automatic systems. Very handsome appearance with broad, firm base ensuring stability while dialling. Case, microtelephone handle and cradle of highly polished black insulating material unaffected by climatic conditions. Improved design of cradle eliminates the risk of false impulses. The ingenious design of bellset enables it to be used as the base of the complete telephone or separately if preferred.
Extract from pages 216,217 of the humorous London magazine Punch of 25th February 1931:
AN UNSOLICITED TESTIMONIAL
I have recently become one of those rare and interesting creatures, a Changed Man. You read about them often in novels and advertisements, but you seldom meet them in real life and still seldomer become one. It is, I assure you, and experience worth describing, especially when, as in my case, the change is so emphatically a change for the better.
I do not mean by this that I had just been cured of drink, drugs, stammering, dyspepsia, obesity, inability to play the piano, or any other of the vulgar vices and misfortunes; in fact, I think the previous "I" was quite a nice man really and, as men go, happy. Yet somehow I was never what is generally known as successful. My business did not flourish as it should. I was always on the verge of pulling off some big deal, and at the last moment the other fellow always got the better of me. But now, as I have said, I'm a Changed Man, and all because a month or so ago I installed in my office an H.C.S.
An H.C.S., or Hand Combination Set, is a technical term for the type of telephone which a benevolent G.P.O. has recently bestowed on those of us who care to pay a few extra shillings a year. No sooner had I set eyes on one of these instruments in a friend's house to have one for myself. It was aesthetic considerations that weighed with me most, I admit - I was that sort of man in those days. The sturdy yet elegant contours of its base-oblong, tapering upwards in four restful curves, and then spreading out once more with a generous sweeping pair of shining black antlers; and, lying horizontally across the antlers, unobtrusive yet ready to serve you at an instant's notice, the hand piece itself, ingeniously shaped for the perfect comfort of your palm, with it's two ends drooping gracefully, glossy and black, like the ears of a favourite spaniel: these, I say, were the things that first attracted me.
Such a change from the insolent perpendicularity of the ordinary telephone, which stands all day, cocking snooks at you with up-tossed head and aggressively gaping trumpet, like a monstrous caricature of a fossilised and blackened daffodil.
It often happens that if you choose things for purely idealistic and unpractical reasons they turn to be the best for utilitarian purposes also. (This is a profound and pleasant truth, but it must have been a ghost of the former me that wrote it down, for my present self condemns it as an unbusiness like digression). Anyway hardly had the H.C.S. been installed in my office before I embarked upon my adventure of becoming a Changed Man. The explanation of all my previous failures suddenly dawned on me. The greater part of my business is carried on by telephone, and for years I had been suffering from acute, though undiagnosed, Telephobia; that is a semi-conscious aversion from telephoning, a feeling of physical discomfort and moral inferiority while doing so. For years, when conducting negotiations, I had leaned forward obsequiously in a conciliatory attitude, one hand uneasily twisted backwards behind my left ear, the other outstretched to grope for pencil and jotting pad. After several minutes of this I would develop a crick in my neck, an ache in my left wrist, a squint from writing with my eyes two feet to the west of my pen, and a sense of being at a complete disadvantage all-round. Small wonder indeed that the Other Man Won.
What happens now?
"Get me Mr Hogthorpe of Bunker and Breams," I say to my secretary, and while she is putting the call through I sit at ease and light a cigar. (I can afford cigars now) In a few seconds–for somehow Hogthorpe does not seem to keep me waiting so long as he used to–there is a discrete buzz-buzz. Out goes my left hand-but in a leisurely gentlemanly fashion, mind you, for the new telephone does not clamour imperiously for attention like the old one; rather it respectively invites it, like a well-trained dog who knows his place but would be grateful all the same for a pat on the head. Well, you shall have it, my faithful lop-eared spaniel. I pick up the handpiece. One end of it caresses my ear to a nicety; the other curves gently round and remains suspended at exactly the right distance from my mouth. I cross my legs and lean back in my armchair.
"That you, Hogthorpe?" I say lightly in my ordinary talking key, for the H.C.S. is so sensitive that there is no need to use the old "telephone voice." "Well Hogthorpe, I thought you might like to know what my terms are about this Manchester scheme."
Hogthorpe demurs and argues, pleads and cajoles. I can almost see him leaning anxiously forward, clutching his old-fashioned receiver to his servile ear. As for me, I am adamant. I lean further back on my chair, rest my eyes on the tranquil expanses of the ceiling and dictate my own terms. I only wish that Hogthorpe could smell my cigar - but that, no doubt, is a refinement that will come.
"Sorry", I say firmly," but I'm afraid your people must take it or leave it."
"We'll take it," says Hogthorpe at last beaten, as I knew he would be, by my coolness, my confidence, my complete mastery of the situation-beaten, in fact, by my Hand Combination Set.
I thank you, Mr PMG, for the invention of the H.C.S. But one thought haunts me: what will happen when Hogthorpe installs one too?
Last revised: July 30, 2019