Phone Busting:
How to make a connection by disassembling the telephone

When on the road, one normally uses some sort of modular phone jack to connect a modem to the phone line. This assumes, however, that the phone you happen upon is actually attached to the wall with a modular jack. If no such jack exists — and you have brought along the right equipment — you can still have a go either at the junction box on the wall, when one exists, or at the phone itself. Here are a few tips for tackling the phone.

Sometimes the easiest place to start is with the mouthpiece of the receiver, also known as the handset. On many phones, especially older ones, you can unscrew the outer portion of the mouthpiece and pop out the microphone. With newer phones you may be out of luck on this score, but new phones are less likely to be hard-wired to the wall in the first place.

To make a connection, you’ll have had to bring along a few tools. First, you should have a length of phone cord with a US-style RJ-11 modular jack on one end. On the other end you should have an "alligator" or other type of clip attached to the red wire and a second one attached to the green wire. Such a phone cord can be purchased specifically for this task, or you can piece one together yourself from readily available parts found in an electronics store. When in the US, go to a Radio Shack. In the UK, they go under the name Tandy.

You should also have a line tester that tells you when you’ve got your connection right. A Swiss army knife is useful for occasionally stripping wires and loosening screws. In addition, you should have a modular phone line connector that allows you to connect a male RJ-11 plug to another male plug.

Now back to the phone: When there is a microphone that pops out, you’ll see two metal spring clips that made contact with the microphone. A red wire may lead to one of the clips. If so, attach the red-wire alligator clip there and the green-wire alligator clip to the other contact. If the wires are other colors, don’t worry. Just connect up and work your connection out through trial and error. After each configuration, use your line tester to see if you’ve got it right. Note that the line tester may only have a male RJ-11 plug, so you may need to use your female/female line connector to connect it to the wire now leading out of your phone receiver.

When the telephone receiver won’t come apart, you should attempt to disassemble the body of the phone. Look for the point where wires enter the phone from the wall and try to connect your alligator clips to exposed portions of wire. Again you’ll probably resort to a little trial and error.

A few things to keep in mind: Phones have been with us for many years, and aside from new digital and cellular models, phones work essentially on the same principal the world over. Phones also work off low voltage. While caution should always be exercised to protect you, your computer, and the phone, the low voltage certainly limits the risk of personal injury.

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