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Old 17th Jul 2020, 11:31 pm   #1
Hermitcrab
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Default Phonecard payphones

The UK was one of the earliest countries to install cardphones, later renamed phonecard telephones, in 1981. BT introduced them first then Mercury Communications followed.

However, despite the apparent advantages of phonecards over coins to a telco, BT didn't seem all that keen on them, although they moaned about their coinphones being subject to vandalism a lot. I rarely saw anyone using Mercury's phones.

I remember seeing a letter from someone complaining about the scarcity of cardphones compared to coinphones in some parts of Heathrow airport, to which BT commented that cardphones were more expensive for them to buy. But surely the money would have been recouped by people buying high value phonecards to make international calls for one thing.

Italy was the first country to introduce cardphones, this was a question on a TV quiz once.
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Old 18th Jul 2020, 12:12 am   #2
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/2016366.stm
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Old 18th Jul 2020, 12:57 am   #3
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

I attended a one day course on MCL card phones, our outfit could offer them a 4 hr SLA.

They had a coin operated card vending machine, although I never encountered one "In the wild".
I remember it had issues with heavy use, the example given was a troop of scouts arriving at one site, something (solenoid?) overheated .
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Old 18th Jul 2020, 1:14 am   #4
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

They were a departure for Mercury, old fashioned copper rather than the fibre or microwave we were used to. There were only a few in Leeds city centre, but probably more in larger cities. Just standard analogue lines despite the fancy facilities.
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Old 18th Jul 2020, 7:19 pm   #5
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

I do remember the cardphones, we had them in our student halls in 1984/85 (BT ones). It was possible to actually get an estimation of how much you had used, because there were wrinkles (looked like indentations caused by the feed mechanism) that extended over the magnetic (?) strip.
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Old 18th Jul 2020, 7:41 pm   #6
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

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'that extended over the magnetic (?) strip.'
Was it magnetic or was it thermal? I remember those little indentations. I used to use a phonecard to call home when I was working down near Bridport in '89 - '91. I think Bridport just had the one public telephone kiosk that took cards back then.
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Old 18th Jul 2020, 8:04 pm   #7
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

I recall that phonecard collecting had a big following. Did that die off as phonecards went out of use?
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Old 18th Jul 2020, 8:15 pm   #8
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

Unfortunately yes, being ex Mercury I have some that weren’t publicly issued and some C&W ones too but they’re not worth selling.

John
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Old 18th Jul 2020, 8:22 pm   #9
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

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Unfortunately yes, being ex Mercury I have some that weren’t publicly issued and some C&W ones too but they’re not worth selling.

John
We were each issued with a card on the Mercury course I mentioned.
Just s token value, 50p I think.
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Old 18th Jul 2020, 8:57 pm   #10
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

I have a few somewhere too, but I've never used one!
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Old 18th Jul 2020, 9:33 pm   #11
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

RE post#3.
I have two or three NOS sample green cards of very low face value in a box of bits left over from my days of working with vending machines.
Stamp book vending machines were tried and failed due to the insistence that the cards had to be wrapped in plastic.
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Old 18th Jul 2020, 9:53 pm   #12
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

AFAIK the original green BT cards used holograms to record the amount of credit. A laser was used to progressively destroy holograms as credit was used up. The French ones that I have use chips like present-day bank cards. A year or so ago, when tidying-up, I found an unused old green holographic card, still in its wrapper.
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Old 18th Jul 2020, 10:13 pm   #13
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

Those green ones certainly had an area that became visibly marked as the credit was used.
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Old 18th Jul 2020, 10:20 pm   #14
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

I recall the then new High Speed Trains being equipped with a card operated phone, it took the same card as a standard BT card phone, but the credit was consumed at a greater rate.

This was long before the general availability of cellphones and was revolutionary at the time.
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Old 19th Jul 2020, 12:52 pm   #15
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

I remember when learning French that most public phones there used tokens called Jetons or cards.

At one time there was a problem in France with people breaking into payphones to steal the money, so they were withdrawn early on.
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Old 19th Jul 2020, 2:44 pm   #16
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

When I went on holiday in Italy in the late 1970's, I found that telephone tokens (gettone telefonico, normally just called gettone) were treated just like coins in shops, being readily accepted and given out in change. They were not flat but had a stamped ridge corresponding to the coin slot in their public telephones.

Last edited by emeritus; 19th Jul 2020 at 2:51 pm. Reason: Typos
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Old 19th Jul 2020, 5:38 pm   #17
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

There were a lot of phone card collectors once upon a time. The international company I worked for had some special ones manufactured which could be used in more than one country. I don't know how they worked but one I had could be used both in Germany and the Netherlands. They were very sought after among the collectors.

Cards were more valuable to collectors if the credit hadn't been used. (Obvious I suppose). I remember someone worked out how to recharge them, or at least ones with a particular chip in them, and for a while there was a booming market in used cards.

I thought it was a great invention when payphones started taking credit cards. No hassle with having the right coins or trying to find somewhere to buy a phone card. I vaguely remember Mercury phones took credit cards and BT ones didn't.
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Old 19th Jul 2020, 6:04 pm   #18
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

Quote:
Originally Posted by stitch1 View Post
Unfortunately yes, being ex Mercury I have some that weren’t publicly issued and some C&W ones too but they’re not worth selling.

John
Same here, i have a collection of phonecards including some lovely Mercury unused ones.
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Old 19th Jul 2020, 7:20 pm   #19
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

Before mobile phones they were used in prisons,no cash and controlled distribution. it was known for the cards to be scored and cut through the hologram and then glued back together with a 180 flip so 1/2 the hologram was on each side, the reader just looked for a reflection from the hologram to authenticate. the heat stamp destroyed the hologram.
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Old 19th Jul 2020, 10:42 pm   #20
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Default Re: Phonecard payphones

Quote:
Originally Posted by emeritus View Post
When I went on holiday in Italy in the late 1970's, I found that telephone tokens (gettone telefonico, normally just called gettone) were treated just like coins in shops, being readily accepted and given out in change. They were not flat but had a stamped ridge corresponding to the coin slot in their public telephones.
Italy had problems with inflation in the 1970s that led to an undersupply of small denomination coins. As well as phone tokens, sweets & boxes of matches were used by shops in lieu of small change. Some banks were allowed to print paper tokens until enough lower value Lira coins were minted.
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