Bryan's DIY Antique Phone Doorbell

Bryan's DIY Antique Phone Doorbell

Gregory Han
May 13, 2009

Bryan Zimmer emailed us this fantastic retro-themed DIY hack, a most timely submission as we just revisited the noir art deco-science fiction classic Dark City and we think this would have perfectly fit in the world (or in Adama's quarters on BSG). Bryan gives step-by-step instructions of how he converted a 1940's Swedish-made Ericsson bakelite original into a wireless doorbell...

This project combines a battery-operated doorbell, antique phone, Arduino, and subscriber line interface circuit (SLIC) to make a wireless doorbell. Readers are taken through basic phone restoration, creation of a custom doorbell button transmitter, modification of the receiver, workings of the SLIC, and description of the Arduino code. Readers must know how to read a schematic, but soldering and other electronics knowledge are optional. This project will be of interest to those who like to customize their home or office, people who like to repurpose antiques, and those who have been wondering how to ring a phone with an Arduino or other microcontroller.

I'm a sucker for cool looking antiques that are functional and still useful, so I was intrigued. Companies don't put the same aesthetic design effort or build quality into their products these days, which is part of the reason why I like antiques. And who doesn't like that hearty, crisp, old-timey sound of an actual bell ringing in a phone? Not this red blooded American, I'll tell you that. I was just about to buy it when I saw the price. $395! Highway robbery!

Being the Do It Yourselfer and cheap bastard that I am, I headed to eBay to find one I could restore myself. Lucky for me someone was selling one and I picked it up for $10. I've only seen one other on eBay in the year since then, at it went for a lot more. I've seen websites that deal in antiques with a few for sale, typically for over $150. Suckers.

Seeing as how we didn't have a landline anymore I had to come up with something useful for this phone to do. Our current doorbell is one of those cheap electronic ones with the boring "ding-dong" sound, so modern and homogenous. Thus, the new life for this phone was decided. It would have to be wireless because I'm a renter and can't permanently alter the house, and the current doorbell button wasn't in a location where I could easily run new wire. The only other requirements were that the new button would have to look cool in a retro way, and the phone would have to be mounted non-permanently on a wall or other vertical surface.

Check out the further details, photos and instructions about Bryan's Antique Phone Doorbell project at his site, BryanZimmer.net.

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