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Monitoring a phone line

Discussion in 'Electronic Basics' started by ScottM, Nov 27, 2006.

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  1. ScottM

    ScottM Guest

    I don't like phones especially. They make an annoying ringing sound,
    which usually isn't intended for me. (I have a wife and daughter). I
    have an answering machine which takes care of part of the problem, but
    there's a specific problem I'd like to solve that I'm sure other people
    (or at least other phonophobes) have solved. It goes like this:

    When I have friends over, we usually sit in the basement, far away from
    the answering machine. It could happen that one of my friends needs to
    be reached in a hurry (say, by family), but I don't want to pick up the
    phone (or run upstairs to listen to the answering machine) every time
    the blasted thing rings, on the one-in-huge-number chance that it's
    important. (They mostly don't carry cell phones, and cells don't work
    well in my basement anyway.)

    What I'd like is for my answering machine to pick up normally, but for
    some device in the basement to recognise the line's been picked up, and
    play the call over a speaker. If it's unimportant, which it will be
    virtually every time. I want to click a button, to shut the speaker off
    until the next call. If it is important, I'd like to click the button
    and then pick up a phone and talk, etc.

    Someone just said the word "eavesdrop". No, that's not the intent. So I
    want the circuit to be easy to turn off, and have no effect when it is
    off; I'll turn it on when friends are over, etc.

    A hack solution has been to put an answering machine in the basement,
    set to pick up one ring before the upstairs one does. The problem is
    that time has proven that I'm constitutionally incapable of remembering
    to turn it off when friends leave, so later, messages actually get left
    on it, and then no one remembers to check it. Which is bad. According
    to my wife and daughter.

    I'd like to buy a solution, but if absolutely necessary I will build
    one. I've been surprised at how hard it is to find such as thing - I'd
    think listening in on calls would be extremely popular among the
    paranoid and jealous, and that can't be that small a market.

    Anyone have any ideas? TIA.
  2. kell

    kell Guest

    Get a baby monitor and set it within a few inches of your answering
    machine. I assume it would have a volume control. Set it real low.
    That way you and your buddies won't have to listen to stuff going on
    upstairs where the phone is, like your wife and daughter kvetching.
    But when the phone rings a couple of inches away from the monitor you
    will certainly hear that. Then you can turn the monitor up enough to
    hear the answering machine speaker and decide whether to pick up.
  3. Bob

    Bob Guest


    Here's one solution:

    It's not the automatic solution you're looking for, but it will work.

    These so-called buttin sets (used by telephone company guys/gals) can
    monitor a phone line without disturbing it. Ones with speakerphone, like the
    TS22, are expensive.

    Home Depot and Frys used to sell these. I'm not sure if they still do, but
    you can easily find them (even on eBay).

  4. ScottM

    ScottM Guest

    What I'd like is for my answering machine to pick up normally, but for
    Heh. Elegant and inexpensive... and with extra receivers, it could
    solve the problem in other parts of the house, too. I really should
    have thought of that... thanks.
  5. Martin

    Martin Guest

    Switch the two answering machines, unplug upstairs one when friends
    arrive ...

    normally, the upstairs one answers first, so basement is inactive ...
    when upstairs is unplugged, the basement one will pick up.

    When you forget to fix it after friends leave the following will occur:
    the wife will check the upstairs one, realize its unplugged, fix it and
    check basement, thus not missing any calls, and resulting in minimal

  6. Martin

    Martin Guest

    By the way, unplug above means unplug the wall wart, so that it is
    (don't just disconect the phone line, which would leave it
    non-functional, but looking OK)
  7. Run the power supply to a basement answerphone off the light switch. The
    answerphone will never make a connection until the light is on. I presume
    that you remember to turn this off?


  8. I have never heard the term "buttin", they have always called them a
    "Butt Set". Mine is an old Harris model that was in a box of dead
    electronics that I picked up as scrap. I replaced the test cable and it
    works fine.

    Google gives these results:

    Results 1 - 100 of about 38,800 for "Butt set". (0.27 seconds)

    Results 1 - 1 of 1 for "Buttin set". (0.18 seconds)
    Service to my country? Been there, Done that, and I've got my DD214 to
    prove it.
    Member of DAV #85.

    Michael A. Terrell
    Central Florida
  9. Bob

    Bob Guest


    Yes, they're most-commonly known as butt sets. The story I got, when I
    worked at Harris Dracon (for 10 years), was that they were originally called
    buttin sets because they could butt into a conversion. Some people think
    they're called butt sets because they're worn on the belt and rest against
    your butt.

    The Dracon division of Harris was recently purchased by Fluke Networks.
    They're closing their California operation and moving to Colorado Springs.
    Fluke is a classy operation so I think they'll treat the Harris people well.

  10. Ross Herbert

    Ross Herbert Guest


    In the UK, Australia, New Zealand etc the lineman/tech test phone was
    always known as a BUTTINSKI ever since I can recall (1950's).

    An example of 1970 era plastic molded type is shown here
  11. Rich Grise

    Rich Grise Guest

    How about a speaker connected to the answering machine's speaker, maybe
    in parallel, with a switch?

    Good Luck!
  12. jasen

    jasen Guest

    baby monitor. (or any other voice-activated intercom)
    hmm, slightly harder
    connect the basement phone to the handset jack of the answering machine.
    when you pick up the phone the machine stops
    that's three out of four, close enough?

    it's possible you could modify the baby monitor such that you could mute
    it by pressing a button and have it reset automatically, perhaps they
    make one with that feature.

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