And to think that this model evolved from an even more outrageous design! Also called the M55 or Modell 55 this model was introduced in 1955, when most of Europe was still struggling from WW2. As the economies of the various countries started to pick up, there started to be some room for luxury and innovation and not just rebuilding and restoration.
So in a world full of black bakelite, Zamac and sheet metal with a touch of wood here and there, Siemens & Halske came up with this. And it made quite an impact, as it won several design awards. It even made it into the collection of the Museum of Modern Art, only the 3rd telephone to do so.
Out of the box, the drum dialler
Even before the war developers at Siemens & Halske had started to rethink the lay-out of the telephone and after the war they came up with an unconventional model called the Fg Tist 261 (264 for coloured versions). This model was compact, easy to repair and maintain but mostly it was made with not just “form follows function” but very much more ergonomics in mind. Also they wanted their product to stand out from the others, as there were a great many similar bakelite telephones on the market.
This lead to its two most striking features. Firstly the vertically placed handset, which makes it much easier to pick up, prevents the user from operating the dial prematurely and does not lead to the cord being on the wrong side. When picking up the handset on a conventional telephone with the right hand, the cord needs to be on the right side.
Secondly there was the unique drum dialler. Originally it was developed for switch board operators, to relieve strain on their arms and shoulders and it allowed for a faster dialling at a normal pulse rate compared to the regular rotary dial.
Evolution: a step back and several steps forward
As the drum dialler did not sell as well as hoped, Siemens & Halske redesigned it even further and quite radically. Only the basic lay-out was retained, together with the shape of the handset and body shell, although the hookswitch was integrated into the body shell on the 282.
The drum dial was dropped for a more conventional dial, which basically was a NrS 38 from 1938.
On the other hand maximum use was made of new plastics for the various external components, making it one of the first European telephones in which this was applied.
On the inside, all components were placed on a cast metal sub frame, both on top and on the underside. In this way maximum use is made of the inside space, allowing for a more compact design. This sub frame can be released with two bolts, allowing easy access for maintenance and repair.
It’s electronics were improved, leading to a better sound quality. Instead of a wiring loom, bare solid metal wires were used to connect the components.
A small wheel on the underside controller the volume of the ringer.
The number window was recessed in the housing, under the transmitter cap. The protruding number windows on older telephone designs were prone to damage.
And most of all a broader range of experts and consultants were attracted for all aspects of the design details.
It was this last aspect that lead to the 282 being available in a standard range of 5 carefully selected colours: black, two tone grey, white, red and green.
Legacy and availability
As is so often the case with great designs, many of the features of the 282 were not new, but they were never before combined in one design. The large number of plastic telephones that followed in the late 50s and especially the 1960s were not only inspired by the WE 500 and the Assistent (SEL/BTMC), but also by the Fg Tist 282.
And although it came in five colours, it heralded, together with the Assistent, a flood of grey telephones that dominated European offices and homes for almost 2 decades.
As Siemens sold 500.000 units of this model, they are not very rare, especially the black and of course the grey ones . Even though offered as a standard colour, white ones are less abundant and even more rare are the red and green ones.
Most of them have a white earthing button on the right side, but there are also versions with the button on the left side, without an earthing button, a blinker or a small light.
There is also a magneto version and there are versions with push buttons. Those button 282’s are very rare and sought after.
There is also a wall version of this telephone, but that is a later seperate development. It was made only in grey and ivory.
In my collection…..
As some of you may know I collect red telephones. I did have a grey and black 282, but a red version was very high on my wish list.
I was able to acquire my specimen in October 2015, having been outbid a couple of times on ebay. I took a gamble with this one, as it looked very dull and matte. It was complete and undamaged and had original cords in good condition even though the marks on the caps and housing indicate that it has seen much use.
I gave it a good polish and my gamble paid off: it was just dull and not discoloured. Otherwise it did not need very much work and it looks great now, if I say so myself.
It does however have some issues I want to solve in the future: the foam rubber gasket between the dial and the body shell has disintegrated, the lettering on the bottom has disappeared and the paper diagram that is usually folded and tucked next to the capacitor is missing.
Having worked on this red one and researched this model I have started to develop a liking for this model. I wonder if I will buy a white and green version to, to complete the full range of colours. What do you think?
Acknowledgements: this article is based on Siemens documentation in my collection, information provided by Dietrich Arblenz and his book: Vom Trommelwähler zu Optiset E and Siemens Industrial Design, by the Design Zentrum München.
The photographs of the Fg Tist 261/264 Trommelwahl were provided by fellow collector Peter Beyer