Picture of Rotary dialer PIC interface
I have found myself with an abundance of rotary phones. In fact, they're everywhere I look. In hopes that I may someday see less of them, I've begun taking them apart and re-using the parts for other purposes.

For some reason I got it into my brain that interfacing the rotary control with a PIC chip would be a good idea. I can only think of a couple of vague uses for it at the moment and none are particularly useful, but I hope to do something cool with this in the future.
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Step 1: Go get stuff.

Picture of Go get stuff.
You will need:

1 - Rotary phone
3 - 220 ohm resistors
2 - 0.1uF capacitors
2 - 20K resistor (can substitute anything between 10K and 47K)
2 - LEDs
1 - PIC development board (I used the Basic Micro development environment)
1 - 20 MHZ resonator or crystal
1 - Breadboard
1 - 5V power source
1 - A foot or so of hookup wire
1 - Screwdriver
1 - Wire stripper

Step 2: Dissect the phone.

Picture of Dissect the phone.
Open up your rotary phone. On the inside you will notice the few basic parts; the rotary dial, the ringer, two jacks, the hook switch and the basic circuitry which is usually encased in a metal junction-box-like thing.

There will be four wires running from the rotary dialer to this junction-box-like thing. The wires should be held in place by little more than tightened screws. Loosen the screws and disconnect the wires.

After that, disconnect the rotary dialer from the phone itself.
SWANKIM4 years ago
Hey...I was trying to think of a way of using it to input passwords or maybe a pin number that will switch on a PC or something..any ideas?
just sayin': I really want to call the number on the phone, but I'll probably get charged a lot in long distance
zoltzerino5 years ago
could this be used as a computer accesory, maybe for Skype or something or loading pre-configured programs / web pages etc (basically a hardware speed dialer for an OS (mos likely Linux)? ZZZZ
bipdan5 years ago
Great job. I was just wandering how i could transform an old phone to work with dtmf. I guees i have half of the answer. I was thinking of couting impulsions with a pic that would control a dtmf emitter when i found your intructuables. This is exectaly the starting point i needed as i was not sure how to connect the rotary switch to the ppic. This is just a porject in my head at the moment but i'll surely come bak if it goes furtuher
randofo (author)  bipdan5 years ago
The pic can generate DTMF tones easily. AVRs can't. You can also get another chip to do it. Holtek manufactures some that are cheap and easy to use.
Use a HCF4017BEY to do it. They have 10 decoded outputs which could then be buffered and sent to some device which could use the signals.............only an idea, so you dont have to write any code.
randofo (author)  Callum Snowden6 years ago
That's a really great idea. Thanks!
Your welcome
kingkewl7 years ago
This old boat of mine uses a dail to control it... sends pules to the boat..
C:\old king\reciver.jpgC:\old king\kqs.jpgC:\old king\rudder.jpgC:\old king\guts.jpg
AT7 years ago
Nice! I have an old rotary dial phone out in the garage. It was in my parents house back in the day. We got it in 1976. Still works! I love the feel of dialing a rotary phone and the real ring of the bell. It would be very cool to hook this up as a 10 key numeric entry for a computer. Not practical but fun non-the-less.
kyre7 years ago
woha i love this project I would love to use it for my computer in planning (a suite case computer in a spy like design think 007) but how would one go about connecting it over usb or similar, I am reasonably handy whit a sodering iron. But this kind of electronics are out of my league
randofo (author)  kyre7 years ago
The easiest way to use it as a USB controller is to hack a USB keyboard (or number pad) as seen here:

Also, sells a micro controller development board for an ATMEGA168 chip called an Arduino which really simplifies working with micro controllers (and is completely open source too).
scotty37858 years ago
Brilliant idea! Could perhaps be used to dial a phone number on your computer for VOIP like Skype. Or you could perhaps use it to perform Macro functions on your PC. Dial 7 and it would open the Text Editor for example. I don't really understand why you need the RC circuit to detect the pulses. With an ideal switch you should just be able to connect one end to +5v and the other to an I/O pin on the PIC. This will detect the closing of the switches. The only possible reason I can see for doing it this way is to de-bounce the noisy signal that the switch produces as it opens and closes. This could just as easily be done in software however. The timer ports on any microcontroller are very powerful tools that would be perfect for this kind of task. This will keep counting the dialing pulses regardless of what the software is doing at that moment in time. Once the dial has returned to its start position you simply read the value stored in the timer and that will be the number that you have dialed. Keep up the good work.
Woeka8 years ago
Playing with the idea for over a year now to make a mobile phone from a rotary phone. Just like sparksfun but then use a simple siemens m35 (or another cheap old mobile that understands AT-hayes commands) instead of an expensive GSM-module.
joeisjoe8 years ago
I did this as well on an Arduino board. I use them for making and performing computer music. Two telephones and a microphone... forgive me.... I can also pipe sound in to the phone and use them sort of like DJ head phones. I set it up once to make the bells ring with Open Sound Control.
Funny how DTMF is Analog signaling and the old Rotary is all digital.

Arduino <-> serial <-> USB <->Python <-> OSC <-> supercollider, pure data or whatever


you can see pics of a performance that my Friend dug put up on my myspace page. I am really bad at documentation. look in the Friends Comments.

myspace link
mrmath8 years ago
Idea: Use it as the interface to a lock of some sort. Idea: Use it as input to a calculator. Bad Idea: Use the output of the PC board to dial the phone. Idea: Use it as a numeric keypad for a laptop computer.
OOOOHHH a rotary calculator would be great hehehe maybe find a way to make a rotary dial cellphone?
Now that I'm thinking about it, You'd need two rotors for the calculator. One for the numbers, and one for the extras, like + - / * . and so on.

Of course, you'd have to make it so that it used the old vacumn tubes that display the numbers. You couldn't have a rotory caculator with anything else. A normal LED would be out of the question.

If I had the know how to do this, I would so do it.
randofo (author)  mrmath8 years ago
Maybe the calculator can have a mechanical display... kind of like using a rotary abacus.
mrmath randofo8 years ago
Nah. If it were me, I'd go with the old vacumn tubes. But, I don't know how to even start that kind of thing. If you do something with it, go for the mechanical display. I'm sure I've seen them somewhere.
a mechanical display...or blinking LED' binary watches
abend8 years ago
I like the idea of using it in a combination lock. You could use the old bell assembly for an alarm if someone gets the combination wrong too many times. The problem is that you'll need something like 90VAC to ring it. The reason that you see so many of those phones around is that they are nigh-on indestructible. The electronics are potted in some kind of sticky goop (try opening the terminal block thing), so that not even dunking in water can damage it. You could probably knock a burglar out with one of those, and then use it to call the cops.
cylver8 years ago
How about adding on a DTMF encoder and speaker/cellphone headset connector? Perhaps a y-connector, too, for the headset connector. Or maybe something bluetooth...