According to the Telecommunications Virtual Museum, the rotary dial telephone was invented in 1896 by Almon Strowger and became the standard telephone used all the way up to the 70s. The rotary dial made the technology of the telephone more accessible to the public.
The most obvious part of any rotary phone is the dial. The dial will create electrical interruptions based on how far you rotate it around. These interruptions are interpreted as a phone number. So if you put your finger in the eighth slot and rotate it around as far as you can with your finger still in the hole, then release it, as it rotates back to its original position it will create eight interruptions. You would then do this for each number in the phone number you were dialing.
The handset of a rotary phone has two parts: the microphone and the loudspeaker. The microphone works with a flexible piece of plastic that vibrates from your speech. This vibration causes a metal coil toward a magnet and creating an electric current. The louder you speak the stronger the current. The loudspeaker receives electrical currents and uses a magnet to convert it back into sound.
Older rotary phones came equipped with actual bells inside to alert you of incoming calls. When the phone rang, an electric charge would cause the clip between the bells to vibrate back and forth, making them ring.
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