Can a European telephone work in the U.S.?
November 29, 2004 5:29 AM   Subscribe

Is there any way to make a european telephone work on the U.S. system?


I recently got a b&o telephone from a friend. it's really nice and i'd hate to throw away or eBay without giving it one honest try to convert. the phone is assumingly on the european system as the wiring jack is the same, but buttons are different. I tried pulling it in, nothing happened.
posted by omidius to Technology (8 answers total)
I recall doing the inverse in the 1980's, so I believe the answer is yes, at least as far as the actual basic telephone line is concerned. I would suggest Googling the idea, and perhaps you'll stumble upon a 2600 Quarterly (telephone hackers) adherent?
posted by ParisParamus at 5:57 AM on November 29, 2004

I'm pretty sure the answer is yes as well, if I recall, the issue is simple, European telephones use the outer two of the four wire connections, US ones use the middle two. The other two in both cases are unused. It doesn't matter which way round they are. You should be able to find an adaptor, but as you can see, you can probably do it yourself with a penknife and some insulating tape.
posted by grahamwell at 6:07 AM on November 29, 2004

Worldwide, basic telephone systems tend to be pretty much identical. I recall reading an excruciatingly detailed text file explaining everything you never wanted to know about phones (Did you know that the keypad volume has a "twist"? No!? Did you care?)

You should try to match tip and ring if you can. It's not all that important, but it's nice to do it right.

Myself, I'd probably open up the phone, and wire in a pigtal ending in an RJ-11 in parallel with the jack that's built on the phone.

I can say right now that I have plugged the "foreign" Canadian modem from my old laptop into a UK phone jack (what the hell kind of connector was *THAT*?) and it worked like a charm.

Ahhh, what the hell, this is the file. READ UNTIL YOUR EYES BLEED. Then you too can name the proper name of the symbol to the right of the OPER (0). (HINT: It isn't a pound symbol). You'll even learn about the 4 secret touch-tones you never heard of and won't ever use.
posted by shepd at 6:19 AM on November 29, 2004

Response by poster: Wow, more than I ever wanted to know about phones. Ask. has proven itself once again. Thanks shepd and everyone, i'll try it tonight.
posted by omidius at 7:03 AM on November 29, 2004

I was told off in #mefi for being cryptic as usual, so what the heck, let me try a bit harder to make this easier:

Your phone should either terminate with a jack recessed into the back of the phone (normal and good) or should have a cord built directly into the phone (abnormal and cheap).

If you choose to open the phone, leading to the jack (or from the cord) should be a red and a green wire from the phone's circuit board. The red wire is "Tip" and the green wire is "Ring".

If the jack on your phone is directly connected to the circuit board, this is where you'd have to bust out the multimeter. You won't be able to check tip and ring, but if you measure across the various possible two pin combinations of the jack you'll find a pair that show around 500 - 1000 ohms when the phone is off hook, and much higher (say 10000 ohms, or even almost infinity) when the phone is back on hook. This is your telephone pair.

Now, if you're going to connect a pigtal, you can just take an extra phone cable, cut one end off and wire it BACKWARDS. Green (Tip) goes to Red (Ring) and Red goes to Green. Don't ask me why this is, just through empirical experience I've noticed almost all phone cords are backwards on one side, so it would make sense to replicate this reversal in your phone.

There are different options to connect the cable. You could use wire marettes, however, I'd strip the original wire inside the phone back a little, tack this new phone cord onto it, then seal it all up with some electrical tape.

Clearly you'll probably need to drill a small hole in the back of your phone to pass the cable through. If you put a small knot and some slack behind the knot near the phone-attached side of the cable you can keep the cable from tearing out your solder connections should you manage to stretch it accidentally.

BTW: If you aren't a cheap bastard like me, you could just buy an adapter premade from the web.

Another BTW: Different countries use different colours for these wires on the phone. In the end, don't worry about tip and ring polarity. Just get the two wires in the phone soldered to the two wires on the phone cable and you should be going places.

Note: Here's a UK phone wiring diagram. Europe has *many* standards for wiring and jack types. It seems you might have trouble getting your phone to ring in the USA. Sorry 'bout that. You could fix it by wiring the necessary capacitor inside the phone. But that's making this far too complicated, isn't it?
posted by shepd at 7:18 AM on November 29, 2004

Response by poster: not too complicated. ignore #mefites, after reading the txtfile, i understood your original post. Worse comes to worse, i'll pull a digital u.s. ringer circuit and stuff it in the chassis.
posted by omidius at 8:02 AM on November 29, 2004

I'm a little puzzled by the complications above. I was just going to write that I have taken phones (and Cisco ATA adapters) from US to France and back and everything works fine. Same for computer modems etc. Same if I am using the traditional style of wall-jack in France with an adapter or not. (We renovated an apartment and installed RJ-11's, having been told that this would be the new standard.) The B&O phone we bought in Paris works with the Cisco ATA box. As does the Panasonic phone I have in the US.
posted by Dick Paris at 12:35 PM on November 29, 2004

An easier way to accomplish the hookup without, you know, mutilating the phone: get a triplex adapter (one of those adapters that lets you plug two one-line phones into a jack wired for two separate lines), plug a regular phone line into the Line 2 jack, plug your Euro-phone into the 1+2 jack.
posted by kindall at 1:43 PM on November 29, 2004

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