Webpage created: December 01, 2019
Webpage updated: December 01, 2019
BUTTON A / BUTTON B PRE-PAYMENT TELEPHONES
Telephone lines were purchased by means of subscriptions and calls were paid for by monthly invoices. The public call offices, which anybody could use, were located in business premises or the Post Office and calls were paid for direct to the owner of the premises. During 1925 the Post Office Telephones Department introduced the pre-payment telephones in to their public call offices.
In these, the caller inserted the appropriate fee, which was two pennies for a local call. There were also slots for 6d and 1s, which would be required for long distance calls.
If the local exchange was a manual one, the caller was connected to an operator and had to ask for the number they required but if it was an automatic exchange the caller simply dialled the required number. When the person being called picked up their handset, thus completing the connection, the caller would then depress Button A allowing the coins to fall into the cash box.
However, if the call could not be connected or if there was no reply, the operator would instruct the caller to 'Press Button B, please" and the pennies would be returned.
Incidentally, the insertion of the correct coinage was originally checked by weight. This became more difficult as the minimum charge increased to 3d and then 4d so a mechanism devised by Messrs Hall Telephone Accessories Limited was installed that weighed the first three pennies and waited for the insertion of the fourth before allowing the call.
These telephones were installed when automatic telephone exchanges were opened, Torquay being the first place in the West of England in 1925 followed by Exeter and Topsham in September 1927.