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Vintage Rotary Phone MIDI Controller

I’ve wanted to do something musical with a vintage rotary telephone for a while now, so when I happened to come across one in a charity shop, I jumped at the chance to have a go!

Be warned: there are many “vintage styled” modern phones with a pile of modern electronics inside. This is not one of those – this is a genuine original phone. You can easily tell if you get inside it – the electronics definitely look like something from the 70s and 80s.

On getting it home, I discovered that this one had been properly converted to be (still) usable on the UK phone system, so rather than my original plan of gutting it and adding an Arduino (like the majority of tutorials and projects you’ll find on the Internet), I wanted to find a way to use it without changing any of the circuitry or wiring inside. This means trying to find a way to use it from the plug-in phone socket only.

This it the first in a series of posts looking at how best to do that. In this post I describe the workings of the phone and what I plan to do with it. If you are only interested in the final result – hooking up the Arduino and reading the dials, you may wish to skip ahead to part 2, although you’ll need to know how to wire it up as described later in this post first.”

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