Phone - Details of Operation

Details of Operation

Further information: Telephone call

The landline telephone contains a switchhook (A4) and an alerting device, usually a ringer (A7), that remains connected to the phone line whenever the phone is "on hook" (i.e. the switch (A4) is open), and other components which are connected when the phone is "off hook". The off-hook components include a transmitter (microphone, A2), a receiver (speaker, A1), and other circuits for dialing, filtering (A3), and amplification.

A calling party wishing to speak to another party will pick up the telephone's handset, thereby operating a lever which closes the switchhook (A4), which powers the telephone by connecting the transmitter (microphone), receiver (speaker), and related audio components to the line. The off-hook circuitry has a low resistance (less than 300 ohms) which causes a direct current (DC), which comes down the line (C) from the telephone exchange. The exchange detects this current, attaches a digit receiver circuit to the line, and sends a dial tone to indicate readiness. On a modern push-button telephone, the caller then presses the number keys to send the telephone number of the called party. The keys control a tone generator circuit (not shown) that makes DTMF tones that the exchange receives. A rotary-dial telephone uses pulse dialing, sending electrical pulses, that the exchange can count to get the telephone number (as of 2010 many exchanges were still equipped to handle pulse dialing). If the called party's line is available, the exchange sends an intermittent ringing signal (about 75 volts alternating current (AC) in North America and UK and 60 volts in Germany) to alert the called party to an incoming call. If the called party's line is in use, the exchange returns a busy signal to the calling party. However, if the called party's line is in use but has call waiting installed, the exchange sends an intermittent audible tone to the called party to indicate an incoming call.

The phone's ringer (A7) is connected to the line through a capacitor (A6), a device which blocks direct current but passes alternating current. So, the phone draws no current when it is on hook (a DC voltage is continually connected to the line), but exchange circuitry (D2) can send an AC voltage down the line to ring for an incoming call. (When there is no exchange, telephones often have hand-cranked magnetos to make the ringing voltage.) When a landline phone is inactive or "on hook", the circuitry at the telephone exchange detects the absence of direct current and therefore "knows" that the phone is on hook (therefore, only AC current will go through) with only the alerting device electrically connected to the line. When a party initiates a call to this line, the exchange sends the ringing signal. When the called party picks up the handset, they actuate a double-circuit switchhook (not shown) which simultaneously disconnects the alerting device and connects the audio circuitry to the line. This, in turn, draws direct current through the line, confirming that the called phone is now active. The exchange circuitry turns off the ring signal, and both phones are now active and connected through the exchange. The parties may now converse as long as both phones remain off hook. When a party "hangs up", placing the handset back on the cradle or hook, direct current ceases in that line, signaling the exchange to disconnect the call.

Calls to parties beyond the local exchange are carried over "trunk" lines which establish connections between exchanges. In modern telephone networks, fiber-optic cable and digital technology are often employed in such connections. Satellite technology may be used for communication over very long distances.

In most landline telephones, the transmitter and receiver (microphone and speaker) are located in the handset, although in a speakerphone these components may be located in the base or in a separate enclosure. Powered by the line, the microphone (A2) produces a modulated electrical current which varies its frequency and amplitude in response to the sound waves arriving at its diaphragm. The resulting current is transmitted along the telephone line to the local exchange then on to the other phone (via the local exchange or via a larger network), where it passes through the coil of the receiver (A3). The varying current in the coil produces a corresponding movement of the receiver's diaphragm, reproducing the original sound waves present at the transmitter.

Along with the microphone and speaker, additional circuitry is incorporated to prevent the incoming speaker signal and the outgoing microphone signal from interfering with each other. This is accomplished through a hybrid coil (A3). The incoming audio signal passes through a resistor (A8) and the primary winding of the coil (A3) which passes it to the speaker (A1). Since the current path A8 - A3 has a far lower impedance than the microphone (A2), virtually all of the incoming signal passes through it and bypasses the microphone.

At the same time the DC voltage across the line causes a DC current which is split between the resistor-coil (A8-A3) branch and the microphone-coil (A2-A3) branch. The DC current through the resistor-coil branch has no effect on the incoming audio signal. But the DC current passing through the microphone is turned into AC current (in response to voice sounds) which then passes through only the upper branch of the coil's (A3) primary winding, which has far fewer turns than the lower primary winding. This causes a small portion of the microphone output to be fed back to the speaker, while the rest of the AC current goes out through the phone line.

A Lineman's handset is a telephone designed for testing the telephone network, and may be attached directly to aerial lines and other infrastructure components.

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