Northern Electric Contempra

Northern Electric Contempra
Northern Electric Contempra

I call this kind of phone an angular phone. That means the phone has almost exclusively straight lines and sharp angles. It looks as though it was designed just using a straight ruler. This is the first one, as far as I can tell. It gives it a very designy, rational look. It was introduced in 1968 and was the first telephone that was designed and developed in Canada.
It was designed by John Tyson for Northern Electric in Ontario. It made quite and impact on the Canadian telephone market because of its modern design and because it came in 9 colours, black not being among them.

Contempra open
Contempra open

Another unusual feature was that the handset was place on the base vertically and offset to the left. This was done to allow addition functionality on the large flat surfaces this created. Many of these functionalities were envisioned, some prototypes were made. Even a version for video calls was considered. Only few made it to actual production.
The first Contempras had a rotary dial, which is the same model as on the Trimphone. It was a small diameter dial with a moving fingerstop. Later also push button versions were produced.

Contempra dial
Contempra dial

A derivative of this design is the so called Contemprette, which is basically the Contempra with a narrower base. This one was sold by PTT under the name Florence.
The Contempra inspired many other designs, like the Spanish Teide (not in my collection) and the Atea 8000, on which the British Rhapsody, the RTT U77 and the PTT Unifoon were based.

Inside the Contempra: getting in is not easy

Contempra handset open
Contempra handset open

Opening the base of the Contempra is quite easy. Just lift off the clear plastic cover of the number card window. A single screw fastens the cover on the all metal base. Removing the cover reveals the hookswitch, network and ringer.
The handset contains not only the transmitter and receiver, but also the dial of course and an additional button that acts as a hookswitch too.
Opening the handset is a different matter. It took me ages to find out how it opens. There is no information about this on the internet. There are 2 screws hidden under the number card, just like on the base. But if you undo them, the handset still does not open. You have to slide out the rubber of the handset cord, to find 2 additional screws. But you can only slide off the rubber, if you undo a hidden small metal clip!

In my collection

3x contempra
3x contempra

I have 3 Contempras now, in various stages of decomposition. Of course I wanted a red one, so I tried to find one for a number of years. The first one I got had a damaged body shell, with big chips missing from the front edge. So very very hard to repair.
I found another, that was in a box of phones I bought. It was severely discoloured and had similar damage to the first one.
Now, knowing what defects to watch out for, I got a 3rd one. This one had damaged cords, so I could talk down the price a bit. This one had a good body shell, but apart from the damaged cords it also had a crack in the top of the handset.
In the end it turns out I needed all 3 Contempras to make one good one. See pictures for the result.