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U.S. PAYPHONE

units

 
Name Western Electric Fortress
Maker Western Electric
Date
This is an example of a Fortress pay phone. Developed in the 1960's by Western Electric, it was later maintained by AT&T and then Lucent Technologies. These days they are now maintained by QuorTech, a COCOT phone manufacturer. This phone improved upon the older three-slot style pay phone on two accounts. The first is that there is only one coin slot. The other is the heavily armored exterior and cord.

The single slot fortress has the ability to be used in an automated system for long distance calls. AT&T calls this Automatic Coin Toll Service and is described on the ACTS page.

Several varieties of this phone exist depending on the vintage of the phone.

Phones made in the 1960's have the older Bell System logo. Phones made in the 1970's through 1984 have the more modern Bell System logo. Phones made after 1984 do not have a logo on the phone.

The coin return slot on phones made prior to 1984 say at the top "Bell System - Made by Western Electric". Some phones made after 1984 just have the "Made by Western Electric" part. Phones made recently do not have any wording at the top of the coin return slot.

Older phones made before the 1990's have mechanical coin return mechanisms (they go "ker-chunk" when you move the lever). More modern ones do not make any noise.

Older phones or phones that have not been modified do not have an "amplification" button and only have a red sign in the corner telling you how to make a call on the phone.

Both rotary dial and touch-tone varieties exist. Most phones are painted black though I have seen some painted dark green.

Most of these phones are Central Office controlled (local calls, coin collect/return, ACTS, etc) while varieties now exist that are now COCOTS in old familiar Fortress housings. Bell South uses these in their entire network. Bell Atlantic uses these as COCOTS in independent telco territory.


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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