MovieChat Forums > Stranger Things Discussion > Buying a phone at the store in 1983

Buying a phone at the store in 1983


I just started watching this show; I'm on episode 2 and already there's stuff that indicates that the creators either weren't alive in '83 or, if they were, they were oblivious to the world around them:

Some of the bicycles are a lot newer than 1983, i.e., mid 1990s or newer.

I never saw a kid with a headlight on a bike in the '80s, aside from one kid who had a small one with a generator that had a little wheel that rubbed against the front tire which only [barely] worked when the tires were rotating. It was a cheap and clunky novelty item and he didn't have it on his bike for long. The problem with big, bright, incandescent headlights like on this show is that they draw a lot of juice and typical working-class parents don't like buying batteries all the time for their kids, especially not the big expensive batteries that those headlights would be consuming all the time. Plus, most kids only rode their bikes during the day, and even if riding at night, a headlight isn't necessary for riding on the street, no more than it's necessary to use a flashlight for walking on the street at night. In 1989 I rode my bike to the next town over, 10 miles away, after midnight, on a rural road. I didn't have, nor did I need, a headlight.

In 1983 in Indiana, and the vast majority of the rest of the US (i.e., Bell System territory), if your phone broke (which was highly unlikely, because those Western Electric phones were built like a tank), you called the phone company and they fixed or replaced it for free. That's because they owned your phone; you only leased it. Had the show creators bothered to look at their Western Electric 554 phone prop they would have seen that it said on it "Bell System Property Not For Sale".

That changed in 1984 when the breakup of the Bell System went into effect. One of the stipulations of the breakup was that the prohibition against third-party phones be lifted. Most people continued to lease their phone from the phone company for a while after that, because it's what they'd always done. My parents gave our leased Western Electric phones back to the phone company and bought phones at Kmart in 1986. My aunt continued to lease her phone until the mid 1990s.

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Add these to the IMDb Anachronisms !

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt4574334/goofs/

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I don't participate in anything on that site since they killed off their message boards.

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Well said / done 👍

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Me too. I deleted my account once I found out their rating is for sale and they censor reviews.

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About the bicycles: in season 1, episode 6, you can see that one of the kids' bikes is far newer than 1983. In this screenshot you can see that it has a stem for a threadless fork and headset (you can tell by the split in the back of the stem, which, combined with pinch bolts, is what allows it to clamp to the top of the fork's threadless steerer tube:

https://i.imgur.com/3eeGCkH.jpg

Threadless headsets of that type are still came along in the 1990s. Here's the patent for the original commercially successful one (Dia-Compe Aheadset) which became the model for an industry standard, and threadless headsets are still the standard today - https://patents.google.com/patent/US5095770A/en

In this screenshot of the same bike...

https://i.imgur.com/kdcW8J2.jpg

... you can see that it has a "U-brake", which didn't come along until the late 1980s, and it also has a tiny sprocket (it appears to be a 25- or 28-tooth sprocket) yet the bike has a normal gear ratio (i.e., when he pedals he's not pedaling at a high RPM yet going slow, like happens with a granny low gear). That's a mid 1990s thing which persists to this day. It was made possible by the introduction of "cassette hubs" for BMXs which allowed for smaller rear sprockets than are possible with conventional screw-on freewheel drive mechanisms. Smaller rear sprockets allow for smaller front sprockets while retaining a normal gear ratio, and like I said, that trend caught on with BMX bikes in the mid 1990s and is the de facto standard to this day. In the 1980s the standard gearing consisted of a 44-tooth sprocket in front (which looks huge compared to the one in that screenshot) and a 16-tooth sprocket in the rear.

Those 3-piece cranks didn't exist in 1983 either. 3-piece cranks did exist, but not those ones, and they were also rare to see on a BMX back then because they were so expensive. Today 3-piece cranks are on all good quality BMXs because they are required to work with the "mid" and "euro" bottom brackets that are standard on good quality BMX frames today.

That bike is ridiculous in general. They obviously bought an off-the-shelf modern BMX and then added some stuff to it that they [wrongly] thought would make it look vintage, i.e., the grips from an old man's bike, the chain guard (a chain guard wouldn't have been stock on that particular bike, especially not one that looks like that), and the laughable banana seat. Banana seats were a '60s and '70s thing and were a complete joke by 1983. If you wanted to get laughed at in 1983, riding a banana seat bike was a good way to do it. If you wanted to get laughed at even harder, sticking a banana seat on a BMX (like that kid apparently did) was a good way to do it. Needless to say, I never saw a banana seat on a BMX back then, and by '83 I saw very few kids even riding the type of bikes that came with banana seats, except for girls on girls' bikes.

Also, in addition to the unlikehood of headlights on kids' bikes in 1983, the ones on the show couldn't even have worked as depicted. They are just auxililary light fixtures intended to be wired into the electrical system of an automobile. There's no room in them for the big battery/batteries that would be required, and a generator/stator doesn't work unless the wheels are rotating, and also, the light intensity varies with wheel speed.

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Sorry, but this is not accurate.

AT&T first allowed customers to purchase and own telephones in 1980.

Then, beginning January 1st 1983, you could buy phones at retail stores like K-mart and Radio Shack.

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"AT&T first allowed customers to purchase and own telephones in 1980."

The original AT&T, AKA: the Bell System, never allowed anyone to purchase their standard phones. That's why "Bell System Propertly Not For Sale" was printed on all standard Western Electric-branded phones of that era, and that didn't change until the breakup, at which point newly manufactured Western Electric phones were branded "AT&T" rather than Western Electric.

After the breakup went into effect on the first day of 1984, the restructured AT&T, or more specifically, the Baby Bells, gave customers the option to continue to lease their Western Electric phones or purchase them, or they could go pick out a new AT&T branded phone at e.g., an AT&T store.

Regardless of that, standard Western Electric-branded phones were never sold at stores. Western Electric was the manufacturing arm of the Bell System.

"Then, beginning January 1st 1983, you could buy phones at retail stores like K-mart and Radio Shack."

The breakup went into effect on January 1, 1984, and before that there was no point in selling phones in stores that were located in Bell System territory, because no one in Bell System territory had any legal use for them. Radio Shack was selling their own line of phones long before that, but only in non Bell System territory such as Hawaii (GTE territory).

She bought a new Western Electric model 500 in a store in Indiana (Bell System territory) in 1983, which is a load of horseshit. Her phone that fried was a Western Electric model 554 (wall phone version of the model 500), and in 1983 that would have been owned by the Bell System, and she would have paid a couple of dollars a month on her phone bill to lease it. The phone company would have fixed or replaced it for free, because it was their property. If she went to a store like that asking to buy a new phone, they would have looked at her like she had two heads.

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Wrong.

NEW ERA FOR THE TELEPHONE: OWNERSHIP REPLACING RENTAL
By Andrew Pollack
Dec. 16, 1982

" ...Starting Jan. 1, 1983 under the F.C.C. order, local Bell telephone companies, such as New York Telephone and New Jersey Bell, will no longer be able to offer new phones to customers but will still be able to offer phones in their inventory.

Those leasing phones now will be able to continue, under regulated rates. But those moving into new homes or wanting an extension phone will be able to get one from the phone company only if it still has one in inventory.

Otherwise, the customer will be referred to a supplier. One such supplier will be American Bell, a new subsidiary of the American Telephone and Telegraph Company that is being formed to offer equipment and computerized services. But like Radio Shack, K Mart and other vendors of telephones, American Bell will only sell phones, not lease them, and prices will not be regulated."

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"Beginning in around 1980, the Bell System allowed customers to own the entire phone, including internal components. Sets were marked with "CS" to indicate the phone was entirely customer owned."

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"Beginning in around 1980, the Bell System allowed customers to own the entire phone, including internal components. Sets were marked with "CS" to indicate the phone was entirely customer owned."

Those were "Design Line" phones, not the standard Western Electric wall and desk phones (the standard ones were the 500/554 rotary phones and the 2500/2554 touch-tone phones for areas that had touch-tone service), which is utterly irrelevant, because her fried phone was a standard 554 and the phone she bought at the general store was a standard 500. It's irrelevant for more than one reason too, because even the Design Line phones had to be purchased from the phone company; they weren't sold at random stores.

The point remains the same, i.e., you couldn't buy a Western Electric phone at a random store in 1983. If you went to Radio Shack or Kmart and they were actually selling phones in your area in 1983 (highly unlikely), they weren't selling Western Electric branded phones.

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i think the makers of this show were born around 83.

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I have an old Sears catalogue from 1983 I purchased off eBay.

And there's about 2 or 3 pages featuring phones to purchase.

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The breakup of the Bell System went into effect in 1984, but apparently some results of the breakup (which was first mandated in 1982) went into effect earlier than 1984, and based on a December 1982 news article that someone else posted, it seems like the transition from phone company-owned phones to customer-owned phones happened in 1983, a year before the breakup went into effect. The vast majority of people continued to lease their phones though, and the Bell System still had plenty of inventory to lease out to new customers throughout 1983.

However, you still wouldn't find a Western Electric phone at a store like that in 1983, even if we accept the premise that she was an early owner of a 554 instead of a leaser like nearly everyone else in the country still was. Also, when people started buying their own phones, most of them bought cheap, made-in-Asia push-button phones (they worked even in areas that didn't have touch-tone service because they had a switch to select pulse dialing [which mimics a rotary phone] or touch-tone dialing) like this one for $10:

https://christmas.musetechnical.com/ShowCatalogPage/1983-Sears-Christmas-Book/0395

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Wow. IDK anymore. Maybe you should reedit you topic.

On topic, my Sears catalog wasn't the one linked.

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"Maybe you should reedit you topic."

It doesn't matter, because regardless of the exact timeline of the events leading up to when the breakup of the Bell System went into effect, Winona Ryder's character still wouldn't have been able to find a Western Electric phone in a mom and pop's general store in 1983. Major national retailer chains may have started selling them in 1983 (though no longer branded as Western Electric), but not stores like that.

"On topic, my Sears catalog wasn't the one linked."

I wasn't suggesting that it was. I was just using it as an example of the cheap phones that most people bought in the early days of being allowed to connect your own phone to the phone line. For that matter, the home phones that people still buy today are usually cheap ones. Western Electric phones weren't cheap. They were nearly all steel and brass inside and weighed a little over 4 pounds, and sold new for around $50 to $60 when they first started selling them (people also had the option to buy their existing used one from the phone company that they had been leasing all along for around $30).

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But you could obviously buy a phone in 1983!

Did you think people were driving around in the 1980's on a square wheel?

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"But you could obviously buy a phone in 1983!"

Irrelevant. You couldn't buy that type of phone at that type of store in 1983. People have always been able to buy a phone, for as long as they have existed, obviously. The problem is that for a long time most people had no legal way to use their own phone, so stores in those areas didn't generally sell them.

"Did you think people were driving around in the 1980's on a square wheel?"

Your non sequitur is dismissed.

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Your insane. People all across the world had been buying phones over the counter for decades.

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You just established yourself as an idiot, an idiot with a reading deficiency no less.

"People all across the world had been buying phones over the counter for decades."

Thank you, Captain Obvious, but I just said as much. Once again:

"People have always been able to buy a phone, for as long as they have existed, obviously."

However, as I've already pointed out more than once now, prior to the breakup of the Bell System, most stores in the US (other parts of the world are irrelevant, because this show takes place in the US, specifically, Indiana) didn't sell phones because Bell System customers couldn't legally connect their own phone to the Bell System phone lines. The Bell System had a monopoly (which means that the vast majority of people in the US got their phone service from them and had no other options), which is what resulted in the mandated breakup in the '80s.

And once again, regardless of the details of the breakup, she wouldn't have found a Western Electric phone at that type of store in 1983, which means the scene is an error.

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Your still an idiot. Caveman people could buy phones in the 1980's.

Do yourself a favor...reedit your post.

*drop mic*

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"Your still an idiot."

Comical Irony Alert

"Caveman people could buy phones in the 1980's."

Your non sequitur is dismissed, simpleton, and since you failed to address anything I said, your tacit concession is noted.

"Do yourself a favor...reedit your post."

Reading Deficiency Alert: Part II

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What a weird re-edit.

BTW...on topic here, Maxim doesn't think the telephone is available to purchase in the year...1983.

It's a strange object. Square and has whistles. The horror!

Here's the topic at this hour: "Buying a phone at the store in 1983".

Completely possible.

Did you buy a phone in 1983 or before?


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"BTW...on topic here, Maxim doesn't think the telephone is available to purchase in the year...1983."

Reading Deficiency Alert: Part III

Your entire post is yet another non sequitur, and since you still haven't addressed anything I said, your tacit concession remains noted. Also, you're going on ignore, because I can do without people who are too stupid to know how to argue, cluttering up my notifications page with pure nonsense.

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QUICK FACT: You can buy a phone in 1983.

...Entirely possible.

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