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Hidden History: The evolution of the modern home phone

Hidden History: The evolution of the modern home phone

Trimline advertising

Western Electric advertised its Trimline telephone in the Times-News in the mid-1960s.

Editor’s note: This column first ran June 28, 2018, in the Times-News and at

Life changed dramatically when the Bell system updated the home telephone from immovable, wall-mounted hardware to clunky desk appliances. Talking on the telephone became even more convenient when multiple “extension” phones on one telephone line were developed “for people who can’t be two places at once,” Bell said.

The “Princess” with its compact size and lighted dial was the first extension phone specifically marketed for young girls and women.

The slim Trimline followed with the dial — and later the keypad — on the handset. The Trimline, developed in 1965, “puts the whole phone in your hand,” said Western Electric advertisements. Women were no longer tethered to a desk phone; the Trimline allowed women to cook dinner and talk on the phone at the same time, the company inferred.

“Extension phones belong in your design for modern living,” a Western Electric ad said in the Times-News. “If you want your phone to ring where you are — instead of where you aren’t — just call us or ask a telephone man.”

It’s “the graceful Trimline phone with the dial that comes to you.”

Mychel Matthews reports on agriculture and rural issues for the Times-News.. The Hidden History feature runs every Thursday in the Times-News and on If you have a question about something that may have historical significance, email Matthews at


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