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WE Experimental Data Phone Card Readers

Beginning in 1958, Western Electric created a series of Data Phone Card Readers aimed at satisfying 2 purposes:

1. Help speed order processing between Operating Companies and the Distribution Centers, and

2. Provide an example of a business machine that connects to a remote computer over the Data Phone Service,
to encourage business machine makers to use the Data Phone Service.

2006-20 paulf.  All rights reserved.
(What's this copyright notice?)

On this page:  Card Reader '59    Keyset    Card Reader '62    '66    Uses    Data Phones '60s

Data Phone Card Reader

Card Reader Back
Data Phone Card Reader

ca. 1959

The Data Phone Subset plugged into the back of the reader, and provided the connection to the phone line.  Each button push or row sensor on the card reader produced 2 contact closures, that were converted by the subset to 2 audio tones.  A speaker with volume control provided feedback from the other end of the connection.

A seperate 502 set (single line with exclusion) was used to dial and provide a voice link.

Cards were placed in the carrier on the right and pushed in when ready to transmit.  Each column would be read as the card carrier returned to its original position.  Pre-punched cards contained codes for operator identification, destination and item description.  Quantities desired were entered via the keyboard.

Trials were held in New York and Illinois.  Card readers in the Operating Companies were used to place orders.  The receiving end at the distribution centers had a more complex subset that converted the multi frequency tones to contact closures, which controlled an IBM model 024 card punch.  Cards punched were then read into the distribution center's computer system.

"Proposed Western Electric Company Arrangement for Mechanized Ordering Using Dataphone Service,"  AT&T, January 19, 1959
"Data Input Equipment Designed for Distributing House Operations," The Engineer, Western Electric, January 1959, page 18.

Data Phone Card
                REader Controls

Card Reader Internals

Keys labeled as follows:
  Special    Error      0
     1         2        3
     4         5        6
     7         8        9
 Order End  Operator  Register


The card carriage is connected by a gear train to a standard 7D dial.  When the carriage is pushed in, the dial's spring is wound up.  When released, the dial spring pushes the carriage out at a rate determined by the dial's governor.  No external power is required.

Look at the thickness of that metal frame!

This design was shared with about 35 office machine makers.  Western Electric was looking for someone to make the units and did not want to be perceived as competing with the office machine makers.

The units do not have any model numbers or dates stamped in ink as most experimental or field trial sets do.

Reader in a phone

Back View
Data Phone Card Reader integrated into a keyset

ca. 1959

Alternate packaging using five of the keys of the keyset to provide the 5 control pushbuttons as on the reader above.

This implementation provided fewer readable columns on the card than the larger version above.  For the trials, 7-digit codes were typically used for employee IDs and part codes.
Side View

Bottom View
There were some obvious physical challenges involved in getting the card reader mated to the phone!  (It looks like a collision on the Interstate.)

Data Phone Card Reader
Data Phone Card Reader

ca. 1962


Simplified design and more streamlined packaging.  Capacity was increased to be able to hold a standard 80-column data processing card.
Data Phone Card Reader Right Side

Data Phone Card Reader Dial

Data Phone Card Reader Inside
This model has a similar heavy metal frame and uses a standard dial to push the card past the reading fingers.  The button array is more compact and integrated.

Button legends are:

     1      2      3      OPR

     4      5      6      ERR

     7      8      9      END

   SPL   0   DNS   REG

Reader in action

By January, 1964, the system was rolled out to several other distribution centers, including Arlington, VA. 

This photo is from the Illinois Distribution Center installation.  The Dataphone subset can be seen plugged into the back of the card reader.

(Western Electric News Features, January 1964.  Scan courtesy of Wayne Merit.)
Card Dialer WE661
Starting around 1961, the system also used Card Dialers for data input.

Ordering info and item part numbers were stored on plastic cards.  Quantities were entered using the phone's dial.

   For Card Dialers, go here.
School Reader
Data Phone Card Reader

ca. 1966

This later model was used in Tempe, AZ in an integrated data processing system that linked all schools in the Elementary School District.

The card reader was packaged as a separate unit.  A general purpose, production Data Phone was used.

(Bell Telephone Magazine, spring 1966, Scan courtesy of Jeremy Walters.)
Data Phones 401E
              and 804A
Data phones
Examples of production sets (without card readers)

  401E (1963) - transmitter (one way), 20 characters per second

  804A (1969) - "up to" 1200 bits per second
Data Phone 401E
Data Phone 401E internals

Uses Princess components -- dial, network and hookswitch.

Note:  There is a marketing brochure for the 401E in the TCI Library.
Data Phone 804A
Data Phone 804A internals

Higher speed.   Tight fit!
Data Set 103G
Data Set 103G

Western Electric eventually made a Data Set with integrated Card Dialer.

I'd like to find one, or at least a good photo.

   For Card Dialers, go here.

Please send comments or photos of your favorite phones to: 

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2006-20 paulf.  All rights reserved.