1980s Telephone

An item as simple and unassuming as a telephone was in every home in the 80s.

Like the decade, a 1980s telephone could be either as bold or stylish as you wanted it to be, or blend right into its surrounding.

When it came to bold and fun in a telephone, Swatch the company that gave the decade wrists full of watches, also made a great 80s telephone.

These phones not only came in just basic black and white, but in bright neon colors, with some of them being completely transparent.

These see-through phones put the mechanical parts of the phone on display, causing anyone who saw it to pick it up and examine it, wondering what all those parts did. Some of them would even light up when they rang.

Novelty phones were also a big trend. Cartoon characters such as Mickey Mouse, Garfield, and Snoopy were among the favorites. Other phones like lips, cars, and food items were both functional and funny.

Some of these phones also had unique rings. They would correspond to the character or item that the phone took the shape of; Garfield meowed and cars honked, though they weren’t as loud as a traditional ring.

If clear and novelty phones weren’t your style, you still had plenty of choices. The simple tabletop or wall phones were available in any color to match any 80s decor.

These phones were rotary-style, with a dial that you turned for each number. They had long, spiral cords that seemed to take on a life of its own when twisted the wrong way.

People would try to walk as far away from the phone base as they could to find a quiet place to talk, getting in the way of other occupants of the house with the cord stretched across the room.

Common features were reset, flash, and redial. They also had the option to use either pulse or tone dialing; pulse was a series of clicks, and tone was an assigned tone for different numbers.

The cordless phone, technology was already there, but around 1986, cordless phones were all the rage. The FCC allowed a whopping 47-49 MHz range for these new phones, making them more energy-efficient because they needed less power, and also made the reception clearer, although just slightly.

These phones were big and clunky, much like the brick cell phones that were rapidly gaining in popularity. They had either a retractable, metal antenna or a stationary antenna covered with rubber or plastic. These antennas were also much longer, usually at least equal to the length of the phone itself.

The ability to bring the phone wherever you needed it was incredibly convenient. You could even bring it outside – but if you walked too far away from the base, you would start to hear a lot of static and the phone would fuzz out.

The telephones all served the same purpose, but offered different styles. Whether you were into subtle, bold, funny, or high-tech, there was always an 80s telephone to suit you.

A woman wearing a blue 80s style dress with a lot of makeup on and she is holding a cordless telephone.