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U.S. PAYPHONE

units

 
Name Automatic Electric/GTE Fortress
Maker
Date
This is an example of a Automatic Electric/GTE Fortress pay phone. It is similar in design in many respects to the Western Electric/AT&T Fortress pay phone. Production on this phone started in the 1970s by AE and was later maintained by AE's successor, AG Communications (joint venture of AT&T and GTE - now part of Lucent). I don't know who maintains these phones now.

These phones are found extensively in the former GTE telephone territory and are also found in many independent telephone systems as well. Most of these payphones are Central Office controlled (including ACTS compatability) but some modern versions are either made from the factory to be COCOTS or have been modified to be a COCOT.

Notice the coin slot and coin return slots are on the right instead of on the left as on the WECO Fortress.

There are rotary and Touch-Tone versions of these phones. Touch-Tone keypads have several versions depending on the vintage of the phone. Older phones have recessed rectangular metal keys. Newer ones are regular square keys and made of metal. Other versions included white square plastic keys.

Most of the cases were painted black, but I have seen some painted pink!

Fortresses
"Fortress" is actually a nickname for the single-slot pay phone developed by the Bell System in the late 1960's. The name now applies to any style of single-slot, coin line controlled pay phone. There are 3 main variations of the "fortress" pay phone, the original Western Electric model, used only by Bell System companies, the Automatic Electric (GTE) model, used by GTE (Verizon) and many independent companies, and the Northern Electric (Nortel) Centurion model, used by Canadian companies and by some USA independent companies as well.  Although the phones look quite different, they all operate the same way. Fortresses require a special coin line to operate properly. For local calls, the phone counts up the money until the local rate has been deposited. When a sufficient deposit is made, the pay phone completes a path to ground so that the phone will pass the coin ground test. After a phone number is dialed, the central office conducts the coin ground test, which consists of sending an electrical current to the pay phone and measuring the resistance to ground. If the resistance is infinite, the call is conisidered unpaid and routed to a recording telling the caller to hang up and pay before dialing again. If the resistance is around 1000Ω or less, the call is considered paid and it is put through. The nonpayment recording sounds like this. Coin tones do not have any effect on local calls. They only apply to long distance calls. A long distance call on a "fortress" pay phone gets transferred to the ACTS system which listens for coin tones to determine if the call is paid for. If you don't know what a coin tone sounds like, click here to listen to one. Most long distance calls go to AT&T's ACTS system which charges extremely high rates for coin paid calls. AT&T has recently announced that they are discontinuing ACTS service due to lack of use. Regional Bell companies (RBOCs) and the GTE half of Verizon have their own ACTS systems for intralata calls from their payphones. Rates are slightly lower than AT&T's. Some phone companies are installing COCOT type phones on coin lines to route long distance away from ACTS to offer lower rates and compete with COCOTs. Coin collection and refunding are controlled by 130 volt DC electrical pulses that get sent to the phone line after a call has ended. Coin collect is positve 130 volts, and coin refund is negative 130 volts.

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