08 November 2009

1981/1982: Buy A Trimphone PLEASE - We'll Give You Funky Two-Tone Colours, We'll Call Them Phoenixphones... We'll Knock £15 Off.... We'll Do ANYTHING

From the Daily Mail, April 15, 1981. British Telecom arrived in 1980 and in 1981 began selling phones for the very first time. Before that subscribers could only rent, and there wasn't much choice of styles. The Trimphone arrived in the 1960s, and with its distinctive warble was supposedly set for great things.

The Trimphone of the 1960s and 1970s came in one sludgy colour scheme (ignore Life On Mars and Margaret - they'll put you wrong - more about that later!) and I've often wondered just how popular they were? If you watch actual television shows of the era, how many Trimphones do you see?

Crossroads, the ITV Midlands soap, had one of the early sludge-coloured beauties - it was in the very trendy flat of the womanising restaurant manager (later home to Miss Diane) - and was on-screen from 1977 until the mid-1980s.

Incidentally, in a 1983 episode of
Crossroads I recently viewed, the Trimphone rang on one occasion like a traditional bell-ringer phone. This was obviously because the chap or chappess in charge of the sound effects had forgotten to use the "warble effect". None of the characters on screen appeared to notice the oddness of this event. Crossroads was endearingly batty at times!

But, apart from the very odd one in Crossroads, Trimphones were thin on the ground on the telly.

In 1981, with their desire to sell phones, that brave new entity, BT, seemed very keen indeed to flog off Trimphones. So, they gave them lovely two-tone colours. And offered £15.00 off.

From the newspaper ad above:

The Trimphone is a lightweight phone with a melodious warble. It combines the best in modern technology with a timeless elegance of design.

Normally, it costs quite a bit more than an ordinary phone, as you might expect. However, until 31 July 1981, we're offering it to you at a knock-down price.

There are two models, the press-button and a dial model. They come in a range of 3 attractive two-tone colours.

For full details, do one of two things. Call the operator and ask for Freefone 888 anytime during office hours, or fill in the coupon (no stamp required). Either way, you'll get a warble for a song.

I'm not sure how successful this marketing ploy was. Everybody I knew who had a telephone (apart from my posh auntie who had a Trimphone - but then she would) had a bog standard traditional dial bell-ringer and I noticed none of these new colourful 1981 Trimphones suddenly bursting out all over.

In early 1982, BT, seemingly absolutely determined to flog these phones, went further.

The two-tone colour gimmick of 1981 continued, but the Trimphones were now called Phoenixphones. Lord Snowdon had a hand in picking the colours, and they were all part of "The Snowdon Collection". There's stylish for you!

The Trimphone goes colourful - the 1982 Phoenix Phone, sorry, Phoenixphone, all one word, available in dial or push-button models.

I didn't see any of these new telephonic style icons on my daily rounds. And BT released such a range of telephones for sale in the 1980s that the Trimphone/Phoenixphone soon seemed positively quaint.

Bizarrely, a couple of the red trimphones - sorry, Phoenixphones - have recently, quite wrongly, appeared in TV programmes set in the 1970s - including
Life On Mars and Margaret.

They've also cropped up on one or two websites dedicated to phones as "70s" items and are often falsely sold as such on eBay

Odd, isn't it - just how many '60s and '80s pop culture items are attributed to the 1970s?

But then perhaps it's not so surprising - the modern day fantasy view of the 1970s largely depends on 1960s and 1980s realities to keep up its totally fake "funky" image!


Unknown said...

I really wanted one of these, but we never got one.

Anonymous said...

Anyone out there selling a Light Grey push button Trimphone?