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Accoson Sphygmomanometer

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Aldis Folding Slide Viewer

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AKG K290 Surround 'Phones

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Apple Macintosh SE FDHD

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Atari 2600 Video Game

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B&O Beocom 2000 Phone

Baygen Freeplay Lantern

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Betacom BF1 Pianotel Phone

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Bolex Paillard 155 Cine Camera

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C-Scope ProMet II Detector

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Micronta 22-195A Multimeter

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Motorola 5000X Bag Phone

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MPMan MP-F20 MP3 Player

Music Man Talking Radio

Mystery Microphone

 

  

Widget Of The Week

Gfeller Eiger Phone, BT TSR-1009, 1982

Seeing a Gfeller Eiger Phone for the first time I had an irresistible urge to pick it up and proclaim that, ’I am not a number, I am free man’… And if you don’t get that reference I urge you to watch a Sixties cult TV series called The Prisoner, and all will be explained (have a look at the photo at the bottom of the page). See it any case, if only for the great cars, bouncy blobs and bizarre plot. This phone wasn’t a prop, but it looks a lot like the ones regularly featured in Number Two’s office. Who knows, maybe they were the inspiration for the Eiger phone? For the record the ones seen in the TV show were actually National Interphone intercoms, but that’s another story.

 

The Swiss made Eiger phone, or as BT liked to call it, Telephone Special range (TSR) 1009 was introduced in 1981. If you wanted one it would have set you back £27.00 for installation plus an extra £2.00 on your quarterly rental charge. It’s worth pointing out that back then you never actually got to own a BT Phone, it remained their property and in theory they took it back when you changed or upgraded your telephone. This one clearly fell through the net.As you can see it’s a one piece-design, not unlike another iconic model in BTs TSR range, the Ericofon Cobra phone (TSR 8007), which dates from around the same time. They both share the same upright layout, with the line switch on the base. But instead of having the dial or keypad on the underside on this one it’s on the front. It’s fairly rudimentary by current standards, the only notable features, over and above the basics needed to make and take calls, are microphone mute and last number redial (the S or Silent and M for memory buttons on the keypad).

 

There’s no need for any instructions; picking it up opens the line, dial the number and speak and listen as you would with any other phone. If you think the ringer volume (a thin-sounding high-pitched buzz) is too loud, and you would need seriously sensitive ears for that to happen, you simply flipped the little white switch set into the microphone or transmitter grille. This isn’t half as clever as it looks; it just slides a panel over the holes to muffle the sound a bit.

 

The Eiger phone was available in a range of colours, including red, stone, dark grey and this rather fetching two tone brown, with a suede-like textured finish. There were two minor variants, types A and C, with slight differences in the way the last number redial or Memory function worked. It’s also worth saying that whilst it has a numeric keypad, it simply mimics the action of a rotary dial, generating pulses, rather than the audible DTMF tones used by modern phones. This also means that it cannot be used on automated digital systems where it is necessary to press star or hash keys, because it doesn’t have them.

 

This one came from ebay. I thought it would go really quickly, they are not that common and collectors generally snap them up. However, it hung around for several weeks until I could bear it no longer, so I put it (and me) out of our misery and coughed up the £20.00 asking price.

 

It was as described and in very good condition. There are a few small scuff marks here and there, the fuzzy finish isn’t very resilient, but they hardly notice and overall it looks very good. It works too, though the lack of a proper digital keypad limits its usefulness. I suspect that it wouldn’t take much to upgrade. Someone handy with a screwdriver wouldn’t have much trouble transplanting the guts from a modern phone, but I’d rather keep this one as the Gods and BT intended, in its original condition.

 

What Happened To It?

The Eiger phone was made by a Swiss company called Gfeller. They’ve been around for a very long time, since 1896 to be exact, when Christian Gfeller set up a small factory making telephones and signal bells for the Swiss railway. Over the next 70 or so years Gfeller AG grew to become a leading light in the telecomms industry. In 1977 it developed one of the first one-piece phones, the Electron, which was the forerunner of the Atlanta, and following some light tweaking, in 1981 it became the Eiger. In 1984 Gfeller merged with Autofon, another major Swiss telecomms company, and the Gfeller name quietly disappeared from view.

 

By all accounts the Eiger phone was quite popular but on ebay UK, at least, they are few and far between, which suggests that BT probably was quite diligent about taking them back. This makes valuation difficult, and sadly, any vague similarities to the phones used in The Prisoner count for nothing. I recall one selling for over £50 a while back if you poke around the web you’ll find tales of owners who picked them up at car boot sales for a few pounds. I’m playing it safe with a mid-range estimate of £30 for one in average to good condition, with plenty of leeway for rough and mint examples. Either way it’s a striking and stylish instrument, not quite a design classic but not far off. Be seeing you!


GIZMO GUIDE

First seen:                         1981

Original Price:                   £27.00 plus additional £2.00 quarterly rental

Value Today:                     £30 (1017)

Features:                           One piece design, push-button keypad, last number redial, mute, ringer volume ‘switch’

Power req.                         n/a (line powered)

Dimensions:                      225 x 73 x 110mm

Weight:                              420g

Made (assembled) in:        Switzerland

Hen's Teeth (10 rarest):     8



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