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A telephone is a simple device. It plugs into the wall, stays in one place, and performs a simple function reliably.

If this does not conform to your notion of what a telephone is or should be, then you can take that as proof that you have been duped by the electronics industry and brainwashed into thinking that telephone conversations cannot be undertaken without the aid of hellish battery-powered, radio-linked, feature-laden accretions of fragile technology.

The apex of telephone design was reached in the 1960's, as far as I am concerned, with the Model 2500. This is the classic touch-tone desk telephone. Built like a tank, simple and functional. When you are faced with a marathon session of touch-tone fumbling through an automated customer service system, this is the phone you want to use.

Before that, the model 500 rotary-dial telephone reigned supreme. An even simpler and more rugged design, these phones last forever and will withstand anything short of nuclear attack.

Did you know that you can use the telephone during a power failure? The telephone system is self-powered - as long as your telephone set doesn't rely on household current for its base stations, repeaters, answering machines, or other extraneous junk. Ever been in a small (or large) business whose phones go dead during a power outage? If you've got one of these phones, you can take it to the switch closet and plug it directly into the telephone network interface jack and dial out - even when the fancy automated switchboard is dead for lack of power.

These telephones ring, too. They don't chirp, squawk, play annoying tunes, or chime - they contain actual honest-to-God bells that ring. The volume can be adjusted and the ringing suppressed altogether with simple mechanical adjustment, but the important thing is that they sound like a telephone, not a video game.

These telephones do not require the user to memorize a seventy-page instruction manual. There are no codes to remember, no features to foul up, and nothing about their operation is beyond the grasp of a four-year-old child.

In a time when telephone manufacturers seem to be competing to produce the smallest, most useless, overly complex pieces of fragile junk that cannot even come close to the voice quality of the old standard telephone sets, yard sales and attics are a gold mine for the telephone hunter. Most people have forgotten how well the old phones really worked, and they're now resigned to throwing away broken telephones every few years. Meanwhile, some households keep the plain old workhorse 2500 and 500 sets around - even though they might also have Caller ID boxes and wireless phones, sometimes nothing works better than the old standards.

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