A Preview of Bill Green’s Upcoming Display and Lecture

Professor Bill Green will have an exhibit on the “History of Telephones” in Cowgill Hall from November 1st through the 2nd. He will also give a lecture on November 1st at 2:00 p.m. in Hancock 100. Continue reading to get a sneak peek of what he has in store!

Can you tell us about your display and lecture coming up?

What we’ve got here is a collection of the history of telephones. It starts out with telegraphs, then tell-key telegraphs, and it moves through all the different types of telephones by the Bell company, starting at the turn of the century. I have a crank phone, a candlestick phone, and typical ones of the period. And then I have a really complete collection of phones designed by the great industrial designer, Henry Dreyfuss.

I have a decent collection of foreign phones too. A number of really prominent Italian, Russian and Soviet block phones. The profusion of insane designs that appear after Bell was broken up in ’84. In the 1980s and the early ‘90s, when there was just every kind of conceivable design for a phone, got designed and built, and they were all for sale. And they’re out there. They’re looney. They’re every kind of weird shape you can possibly think of, you know? They’re all over the place and they are fascinating, I think. The ‘80s and ‘90s were a very vibrant period. I’m not exactly sure if they were really a high period or whether they were just really exciting, because most of the designs were just kind of nutty but interesting.

Then I have a nice collection of phones by the Bang & Olufsen company in Denmark that are super high-quality phones, mostly from the ‘90s. They were very expensive and very exclusive. Quite a number of these phones were never really actively sold in the United States, so a lot of the phones you wouldn’t have seen anywhere. And then I have a “very complete” collection of the history of cell phones like the WWII walkie talkie, to the original Motorola phones that were used by the police, a car phone, and then the very first Motorola cell phone. [As well as] most of their subsequent phones, usually in the flashiest color combinations that I could find.

That will be the exhibit on the first and second of November. On the second of November, I’m going to give the two o’clock lecture in Hancock. [It will be] more about my attitude towards design, in general, starting with a segment on the difference between animals that have eyes and animals that don’t have eyes, and trying to draw some ideas off that. Then eventually moving on to the second half of the lecture which is phones, but I’m not going to go over them one by one in detail, because all the phones themselves will be there… They are much more interesting to pick up, look at and play around with. They are all in a very durable condition and that’s what they were designed to be.

What inspired you to give this lecture?

        Well I’m the collector here, and I like to collect stuff. I went through a period when I was working with chairs and beefed up our collection down in the library. We now have four-times the number of chairs down there now and they won’t fit anymore. Then I went through tableware, I was really into tableware. I also have really complete collections of cameras, and old computers (things like that really). I don’t know how I got started on phones… I already had a series of phones by American designers, but there were a lot of phones I hadn’t seen before. I mean, I’m not much of a phone user, as much as I am a collector! I have managed to find a lot of things I think people would probably recognize. The stuff they might not recognize would probably be more interesting, so that’s the idea. It should be amusing –  it’s supposed to be! You got to keep people’s attention, and the best way to do that is to give people a bit of humor.