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Old 8th Jul 2021, 7:25 am   #1
Sparks
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Default Telephone with Mercury button

I recently bought an old Philips Pacephone which has a blue Mercury button. I guess its purpose was to press it before dialling the number in order to connect the phone to the Mercury network. How did the button work ? Did it send a tone or signal down the line or something else ? Thankyou.
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Old 8th Jul 2021, 8:01 am   #2
Nickthedentist
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

I think it dialled 131.
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Old 8th Jul 2021, 9:00 am   #3
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

Thanks Nick. Sounds likely. I assume the facility is obsolete now!
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Old 8th Jul 2021, 12:38 pm   #4
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

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I think it dialled 131.
sounds something about right the first efforts at local loop unbundling were access codes to alternative trunk suppliers
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Old 8th Jul 2021, 2:10 pm   #5
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

Yes I was there ( as Max Boyce used to say ). The 131 would then allow you to input your authorisation code, which would then give a secondary dial tone. This was 30 years ago.

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Old 8th Jul 2021, 4:09 pm   #6
M0FYA Andy
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

I remember having a little Mercury box which the phone plugged in to.

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Old 8th Jul 2021, 7:22 pm   #7
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

You weren't expected to remember your 10 digit PIN.
The blue button was typically programmed thus:

131[pause][10 digit PIN]

The PIN was sent as DTMF but very often the local exchange was yet to be "modernised" so the initial 131 had to be sent as LD followed by the appropriate command (*) to switch the remaining digits to DTMF.

Some businesses opted for cost-centre codes, these were any arbitrary 2 or 3 digit code appended after the PIN, and Mercury would separate out each unique code on their itemised bill.

Later came the Mercury 132 service which worked the same as all the other indirect carriers we all got to know.
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Old 8th Jul 2021, 7:37 pm   #8
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

Interesting stuff although it seems like a faff to connect to a rival telecoms operator. I didn't buy the phone for its past Mercury capabilities - I just liked the look of it and it was cheaper than an Interquartz 9825 'footprint'.
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Old 8th Jul 2021, 9:11 pm   #9
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

I've noticed a few manhole covers with the Mercury logo on the road where my current job is based.
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Old 8th Jul 2021, 11:18 pm   #10
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

Quote:
Originally Posted by rambo1152 View Post
You weren't expected to remember your 10 digit PIN.
The blue button was typically programmed thus:

131[pause][10 digit PIN]

The PIN was sent as DTMF but very often the local exchange was yet to be "modernised" so the initial 131 had to be sent as LD followed by the appropriate command (*) to switch the remaining digits to DTMF.

Some businesses opted for cost-centre codes, these were any arbitrary 2 or 3 digit code appended after the PIN, and Mercury would separate out each unique code on their itemised bill.
Not only businesses - that feature was really useful in a shared house, to try to work out who owed what when paying the phone bill!
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Old 9th Jul 2021, 7:08 am   #11
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

I think Mercury became One2One then T-mobile
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Old 9th Jul 2021, 7:52 am   #12
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

Mercury was initially owned by Cable & Wireless 80% and Bell Canada 20%. Then became fully owned by C&W, then bought by Vodafone.

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Old 9th Jul 2021, 7:55 am   #13
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

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Interesting stuff although it seems like a faff to connect to a rival telecoms operator.
For a while this sort of thing was very common. When I was a student in the early 1990s a company called "ACC Long Distance UK" set themselves up on the university's telephone system so that individual students could dial a huge long number on a phone on the internal network (most of which couldn't make outgoing calls) and make outgoing calls charged to their own account. This was quite an innovation and we made use of it a lot. It was much better than queuing for the payphone!

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Old 9th Jul 2021, 11:36 am   #14
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

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Mercury was initially owned by Cable & Wireless 80% and Bell Canada 20%. Then became fully owned by C&W, then bought by Vodafone.
Quite a convoluted chain of events. It was still the Mercury Project when I joined! https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercury_Communications
All history now.
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Old 9th Jul 2021, 3:25 pm   #15
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

I'm still using this one every day.
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Old 9th Jul 2021, 4:33 pm   #16
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

Mine has begun to turn yellow as so many white plastics do. The phone itself is still otherwise in reasonable shape. I haven't pressed the Mercury button.
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Old 9th Jul 2021, 6:02 pm   #17
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

"Lowest cost routing" was a big sales-point for the first alternative-to-BT telcos to emerge in the 1980s - I remember several of my clients had contracts with Mercury which included 'smart dialers' which basically recognised when someone at site A was calling someone at site B and prefixed the called number with the code to 'use Mercury not BT' - which essentially gave them free calls between the sites.

I used this to my advantage as a way to get [1200-baud] data-communications between the sites rather than renting EPS8/EPS25 circuits from BT.

Some of these 'data' calls stayed up for weeks!
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Old 9th Jul 2021, 6:48 pm   #18
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

Quote:
Originally Posted by cmjones01 View Post
For a while this sort of thing was very common. When I was a student in the early 1990s a company called "ACC Long Distance UK" set themselves up on the university's telephone system so that individual students could dial a huge long number on a phone on the internal network (most of which couldn't make outgoing calls) and make outgoing calls charged to their own account. This was quite an innovation and we made use of it a lot. It was much better than queuing for the payphone!

Chris
When I was at college we found an alternative. The phones in the halls of residence ( a very old LD only system) couldn't make outside calls at all, only connect to the main university system and call uni numbers or of course numbers within the halls. Outgoing calls were also not possible on the main uni system for any phones that students could access. I still don't remember why, but we wondered if from the halls of residence phones, we could dial the number to connect to the uni system, then the code for an outside line, then an outside number. And it worked. From the old 'hall' system we could dial any outside number, including international. We did make a point of letting the uni know as soon as we found out (maybe by ordering a telegram?), but it took them weeks to get round to looking into it. In the meantime I'm sure some of the international students ran up a 'bit' of a bill.
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Old 9th Jul 2021, 9:44 pm   #19
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

I remember they had Harry Enfield in their adverts, with his Mr Grayson & Mr Chumley-Warner characters.
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Old 10th Jul 2021, 7:44 am   #20
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Default Re: Telephone with Mercury button

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it took them weeks to get round to looking into it. In the meantime I'm sure some of the international students ran up a 'bit' of a bill.
I don't know about England but in Germany the alternative operators didn't provide billing pulses. The company I worked for allowed people to make personal calls which they were then charged for. It worked OK for Deutsche Telekom buy if you used an alternative operator the call apparently cost nothing although the company still had to pay the true cost. As the company had no way of working out what the call had really cost the only solution was to block everything except Deutsche Telekom.
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