800 Series Desk Phones

Design began in 1961 on a new telephone . It was to be locally designed and built. It was heavily based on the "Assistant" phone from Bell Antwerp, but electronics and styling were completely reengineered. The aims were better transmission over long lines, better reliability, and the ability to be completely made locally.

The 801 was released to the public in January 1963, although there is anecdotal evidence suggesting some were released earlier because of the shortage of other phones. The colors were Light Ivory, Mist Grey, Fern Green, Topaz Yellow and Lacquer Red. Black was added to the range later. Parts were supplied by AWA, STC, and the Australian Post Office workshops. Initially dials were not made in Australia, so were imported from three different suppliers. Because of the different layouts of the dials, it was necessary to supply each with an adapter ring to fit the basic 800 shell. The noticeable difference between these phones is in which number appears at the top of the dial. The adapter ring carried the number around the outside of the dial. This series was designated 801. Some years later when supplies of Australian-made dials became available, the adapter was dispensed with and the case remoulded to only fit the new standard dial. This had the numbers under the dial fingerholes, and the new series was designated 802. Eventually the old carbon-granule transmitter was replaced with an electronic model, the 20E, marking the end of a technology that dated back nearly a hundred years.

Cover of STC brochure

It proved to be a good, reliable telephone and lasted well into the 1990s until finally replaced by the Telecom Australia T200. It became the basis for many modifications and special-purpose phones, mostly produced during the Telecom Australia period. See Other Phones . Although it was originally designated the 800 series, later publications sometimes refer to it as the 8000 series, as some special purpose phones used a 4-digit code.

At first the Post Office charged a premium of $8 to change from a bakelite phone to an 800, and it is surprising how many people were prepared to pay this.

Public color preferences soon became obvious. Ivory was by far the best seller, followed by green and yellow in roughly equal amounts. The red and black phones had their supporters, and it must be said that the black model was quite attractive in its translucent glossy plastic. Grey was intended to be the common business color, and most of the modified phones were produced in grey cases. Its boring color was almost universally disliked, and many phones were quietly changed to other colors by cooperative technicians.



The full range of 800 colors.


Note the grey phone with the additional pushbuttons. The phones casings were moulded with knockouts in each corner to fit extra facilities such as recall buttons, locks etc. Most of these options were built onto the grey phones, which were intended to be the generic business phone color, but public preference soon saw the features being added to other colors in the range once supply was able to meet demand.








Apart from the need to have an adapter ring with each dial for the 801, there are other less obvious differences between the 801 and 802 versions.










802 range. The same colors, but a much cleaner appearance.

1963 Initially the case did not have handset retainers (the little bumps moulded into the casing in front of the switchhook plungers). The transmitter cap has only one ring of holes, and a centre hole. Capacitors are the large cylindrical type mounted on circuit boards, mostly marked "Raynor". The first models were provided by STC and may be unbranded, only carrying the PMG Serial and Item number eg: S1/201. From the dates on the moulding marks inside the cases, production of mouldings began in 1961.

Mouldings from AWA are known dated 1961 to 1963, but they do not appear to have built complete telephones until 1963. The handset retainer bumps were added around this time.

1964 - 1971 period: the transmitter cap was updated with two rings of holes instead of one. The wall socket connectors were changed from brass to nickel in the early 1970s.

1964: Black was added to the color range, first produced by AWA. The earliest black phones were also fitted with a black dial. By now all phones carry a company stamp as well as the PMG markings.

1970: The standard Australian DMS-1 dial (Dial, Multi Speed) has production dates starting from 1969, but so far has only been found on phones dated from 1970 and 1971. This dial had arrows (fillets) on the dial plate pointing to the adjacent number on the adapter ring. The arrows were printed on the underside of the plastic overlay to prevent wear. The finger stop was screwed onto the assembly.

With the cumulative redesigns and the availability of the DMS dial in large numbers, the entire phone was redesignated the 802. The DMS-2 dial was introduced, with black digits instead of the fillets. The finger stop clipped in. The numbers were still printed on the underside of the clear plastic overlay. The dial label no longer had "Listen For Dial Tone", but with the introduction of STD it now read simply "Area Code". Some phones had the STC version which had a nice little map of Australia printed below.

1972: In early models the switchhook plungers were still transparent plastic, but from 1972 to 1976 these were gradually replaced with white nylon plungers to reduce breakage and sticking (AWA from late 1972, STC from mid 1974). The white ones proved satisfactory and remained in service until 1984. The dial plate was changed to white plastic with the numbers printed onto the surface (same dates). These are the most common assemblies in the 800 range. The earlier AWA dial plates have bolder digits.

1973: From late 1973 the wall terminal socket was fitted with narrow Transpro terminals. In late 1971 AWA stopped moulding the dates into the case parts. STC followed in late 1973. Chassis continued to be datestamped. Line cords were still the color-matched ones made by B.L.Y. Industries.

1977: From early 1977 the new Telecom Australia decided that all cords would now be a standard "teakwood" color, although some are known from 1975 - possibly to evaluate the color, or early supplies for maintenance.

1978: From early 1978 the recall button fitted to the lower left corner of many phones was changed to a slightly smaller version in white instead of ivory.

1979: The bell assembly was changed to a unit with a smaller coil (AWA from late 1979, STC from early 1981). The small rubber pad inside the receiver cap (it held the receiver capsule in place) was changed to a smaller type that only covered the holes from late 1979 onwards.

1981: From mid 1981 the handset cord was replaced with a version with a moulded terminator at the entry points instead of the earlier sleeve. At the same time the cord became slightly thinner. The line cord was thinned down from 1982. A new quieter DMS-3 dial was introduced, with a faster return speed and more of a "whizz" sound. These dials were also serviceable, and had an adjustable return speed. A new printed circuit assembly, model PCA-17, was introduced - slightly larger, with more terminals. The dial label now featured the Telecom Australia logo and an extra line to write the longer STD numbers. The base stamp now had the production date in week/year format (eg: 2182) from AWA, or month/year (eg: May 82) from STC. Bit by bit the Colorfone was being "economised".

Telecom Workshops refurbished some models, but so far only Ivory, Grey and Green are known. The rebuilt phones have a flat-cable handset cord housing single-core conductors. This type of cord was soon to be introduced in the Touchfone range 807 and 809. These cords were introduced from around 1986.

I am grateful to Greg Haywood for making his extensive research on this telephone available to me. His information is based on research and examination of many, many phones. The variations he has listed are mostly technical improvements or production economies, showing just how right the original designers got it. The 800 proved so rugged and well built that some millions of recovered phones were sold overseas after the mass replacement with the Touchfone 200. The 800 can still be found in countries like Poland, or the developing African nations, proving that there was still life in the old 800 even after nearly forty years.




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