Warning: virus! Keep your telephone sane!

Telephone operators 1918
Telephone operators 1918
1918 telephone operator
1918 telephone operator

Telephones and hygiene have been an issue for a long long time. The 1917 influenza pandemic had many consequences with regards to telephony, echoes of which reverberate until today. This issue may even go back to the origin of man. And underestimating this matter may even result in the end of civilization as we know it!

Dirty contraptions

sanitary mouth piece patent 1909
sanitary mouth piece patent 1909

From early on in the history of telephony contraptions and devices were invented to channel sound towards the microphone. This was done to improve sound quality, but also to provide some kind of privacy.

There was of course the famous speaking tube: the trumpet shaped mouth piece that is so iconic of early telephones. But also there all kinds of add ons and gadgets for speaking in the pho

ne. A good example is this Hush a phone, intended to prevent the conversation from being overheard.

Soon it was clear that the telephone together with its add ons could be a hotbed for germs and hygienic solutions were marketed.

Spanish Flu 1918

Bell system quarantine advert
Bell system quarantine advert

The worst pandemic since the black plague also made its mark on the world of telephony. Companies had trouble maintaining telephone service, with their staff ill or even dying from this disease. Hygiene became even more a consideration and it also meant the speaking tube was no longer the design of choice for telephones. More hygienic mouth pieces were invented but in the wake of this disease the telephone cleaning service came into existence.


Phonotas advert
Phonotas advert

Perhaps mr Becker was a visionary when founded the Phonotas company even before world war one. His company cleaned telephones in office buildings and they were undoubtedly extra busy after the Spanish flu.

Similar companies sprang up in other countries too. And nowadays companies like that do not only clean telephones, but also other office equipment like copiers, printers and of course computers.

Undoubtedly the current corona crisis will give these companies a lot of extra business. At least for a while.

Miss Pretty of Kleenaphone

Barstow, Miss Pretty of Kleenaphone
Barstow, Miss Pretty of Kleenaphone

Forever unseen, but apparently she kept the office workers running a fever: miss Pretty of Kleenaphone. She was a young lady in the employment of a telephone cleaning company in the comic strip Barstow. The main character was absolutely smitten by her, until he learned she was married and had children.

The strip ran from the 1960s until 2001 and was widely distributed in Great Britain and Australia.

Origins of man

's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
‘s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

I never realized it was a real profession: telephone sanitizer. According to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams we descended partly from the occupants of an ark ship from the planet Golgafrincham.

The ark was occupied by telephone cleaners, account executives, hairdressers, tired TV producers, insurance salesmen, personnel officers, security guards, public relations executives, and management consultants. It crashed on earth millions of years ago and the survivors interbred with early hominids.

Although there is no archaeological evidence for this, it would explain a lot about human behavior.

End of civilization

Teleclean advert
Teleclean advert

The ark ship from Golgafrincham was built in an attempt to rid that planet of the useless third of the planets population. They tricked them into evacuating their planet by telling them an environmental disaster was imminent. They were to go ahead to prepare the way and 2 more arks would follow.
The disaster was a lie and those other arks never left the planet.

And that would be the end of it, if not ironically the whole civilization succumbed to an infectious disease that was spread via unclean telephones.

Have we learned anything?

Handen wasschen!
Handen wasschen!

Apparently not. Telephones keep appearing in those top 10 lists of unsanitary items around the home. This time it is not those foul speaking tubes from yesteryear. It’s not even those grubby classic rotary dial telephones. Most of those are long gone.

No, it’s our smart phones. Yes, those futuristic sleek, clean, smooth, designy multi media wonder devices. They are filthier than street pavement during the Victorian cholera pandemics.

Keep your device clean

Yes, the message is clear and unambiguous: keep whatever you are using clean! Here is a video to help you.

Again, remember it very well, make sure your whatsit is clean. Our forefathers have said it time and time again: keep it hygienic, spotless. Make sure it is spic & span, squeaky, unsmudged, unsoiled, unblemished, tidy and immaculate.

Otherwise you may bring the end of the world upon us.

Have you cleaned your telephone apparatus today yet?


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