I recently purchased a PMG 332AT black Bakelite telephone which I have been after for some time now. I love the look of this old phone and I wanted to restore it and have it up and running as a functional extension in my home. It was to complement the PMG switch board which has been waiting to be restored by myself for the past 10 years (more info to come).

PMG 332 AT Bakelite TelephonePMG Wooden Switchboard (PBX)

A bit of history about this phone and its origins; back in the year this phone was introduced (1939) Australia’s telegraph/telephone systems were run by the post office then called the Post Master General (PMG) until it was split off into Telecom Australia (now known as Telstra) and Australia Post in the 1975. The phones were manufactured by the British Post Office (BPO) and imported into Australia and re-badged as PMG.

The phone’s casing is constructed from Bakelite, one of the first plastics ever devised. Items which were made with Bakelite might have felt a bit cheap at the time, however now days radios and phones made from Bakelite have become collectors items, and hence if in near mint condition can be worth quite a bit of money.

One of the problems with Bakelite is that it can be very brittle, especially after aging, the phone which I managed to pick up for a decent price contains a small chip in the draw cover on the base, and a large chunk of the mouthpiece cup is missing, along with a crack down the side of the mouthpiece. I am currently hunting down replacement parts to start to restore this phone.

In the meantime I was able to open up the phone and get it functioning again. The phone’s design is fairly simple, so not too much can go wrong with them. When I first got the phone home I needed to wire a suitable modern connector to the existing cord, after plugging it in I noticed that the phone had a few issues, I could not dial out, however the phone bells would ring on an incoming call, but picking up the hand piece would not take the phone off-hook so I could not answer incoming calls either. The phone’s rotary dialler was lose in the case, however I could dial it and it would return nicely so I was confident that part was still functioning.

I opened up the phone and started to clean the contacts which contained a bit of corrosion. I tightened up all the fittings and screws to secure the rotary dialler firmly in the case, connected all the wires back into the terminal block and with some luck plugged it in and it worked! The bell would ring and I could pick up incoming calls.

Now one of the problems I face with this phone is the pulse dialling, modern phone systems use tone dialling known as DTMF (Dual-tone multi-frequency). I have read that the telephone system still supports pulse dialling, however my situation is different, I do not have a real phone line.

I am running a VoIP (Voice of Internet Protocol) system at home, the service which connects the VoIP to the PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) which allows me to make calls to phone numbers on the telephone network at lower rates is supplied by my ISP (Internet Service Provider). My Internet connection is ‘Naked ADSL2’, “naked” meaning its using the physical phone line for the connection, but the phone line has its connection to the telephone network “stripped” off.

Traditionally with a VoIP system, VoIP telephones are used, however a small device known as an ATA or Analogue Telephony Adapter which implements an FXS or Foreign Exchange Station (sorry about the telephone jargon) can be purchased that allows you to connect a traditional ‘analogue’ telephones to VoIP systems. I am running my own internal VoIP server on my home network. Asterisk which is an open source telephony PBX (Private Branch eXchange) software package allows me to have multiple lines in-use at the same time in either direction, I can implement voicemail, music-on-hold, extensions, and much much more.

I purchased a Grandstream HandyTone 286 (HT286) which is an ATA device and this was actually the first way I had of testing the Bakelite phone. It actually works very well although here comes the problem I was getting to earlier… it does not support pulse dialing! So I can only receive incoming calls, I can not dial out :( After doing some reading online, devices are available especially for these old phones that will convert pulse dialling into DTMF tones, so this seems like the solution to my problem.

Ok… I think that I have rambled on enough in this post so I’ll cut it short here and save the good stuff for part 2!

3 Thoughts on “Bakelite Telephone – Part 1: History and ramblings.

  1. I have the same phone and would like to connect it to a line we haven’t used in years. The phone has a white, red and green wires. The cable from the wall has yellow, black, green and red. Which ones did you connect together? This phone was in my wife’s home when she was a child and she would love to be able to use it again.
    Thanks.

  2. jwiseman_aus on July 5, 2010 at 5:56 pm said:

    Hi,

    I recently purchased a PMG 332 on ebay from Tasmania, but it has an plug. Can you please tell me how to wire on a modern plug?

    cheers,

    James.

  3. jwiseman_aus on July 5, 2010 at 5:57 pm said:

    it has an old**** plug

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