Portable Rotary Phone - Black

Replacement: None. We have unfortunately retired this product but you can always read about how we built it! This page is for reference only.

The infamous Portable Rotary Phone is an original rotary phone that has been modified to be a cellular phone. The Port-O-Rotary has a functional rotary dial, rings the original, loud metallic bells when a call is received, and even has a dial tone!

Phone comes fully assembled and tested. All you have to do is open the phone, insert your SIM card, and turn the unit on! The unit will utilize your phone number and account minutes. The internal cellular module works within any country that has one of the 900MHz, 1800MHz, or 1900MHz cellular bands (90% of the world). The Port-O-Rotary is truly international with up to 15-digit dialing, auto-frequency selection, '+' characters, and PIN # entry for pre-paid cards.

Each Port-O-Rotary is an original rotary phone that has been specially modified. There may be small scratches and scraps on the exterior, also known as 'character'. The battery can run the phone for 4-5 days (yes days) and is charged by an external jack on the rear of the phone (charger included).

Phone Includes:

  • Main controller board
  • Ringer module
  • Cellular module
  • 2000mAh Lithium-Polymer battery
  • Built-in fast battery charger (2 hour max charge time)
  • Wall adapter (US spades but is 110-240V rated)
  • Mini-cellular internal antenna (compatible with North American and European Frequencies)

Weight: ~2lbs

  • About the size of a rotary phone...


Looking for answers to technical questions?

We welcome your comments and suggestions below. However, if you are looking for solutions to technical questions please see our Technical Assistance page.

  • MyBuddy / about 16 years ago / 3

    Hey Nobody:
    This is SparkFun ... you're supposed to build those features yourself!
    Soon as I get my Port-o-rotary I'm going to see what I can do about sending and recieving SMS messages, a phone book, and caller ID. But I want to keep the classic phone with no buttons or wires, so maybe transfer the messages to a separate blue-tooth device on which I can script Python (or something easy). There is a real-time clock, alarms, even GPS!
    I have butterflies just thinking about all the possibilities!
    I love you guys. Do you give tours?

  • Volkemon / about 13 years ago / 2

    Still Happy with the Port O Rotary A few years later. Still works as well or better than when I got it, with exceptions.
    I am doing some minor rework to it after an unfortunate power supply misidentification caused some damage. It still works, but the battery has to be removed and charged. The bright side is that I will finally be able to leave it plugged in and on.
    Moved the antenna from under the rotary dial plate to the top of the plastic case. MUCH better reception.
    Also know a little more about things electronic now, and see some audio conditioning circuits would be handy. Easy to splice in also.
    Maybe give the forum post a necro-bump. :) It has been a while.

  • Volkemon / about 15 years ago / 2

    @wd6cmu- Yeah, thats how I have removed dials in the past- but this one has two (2) holes, and I cant seem to find the 'magic' combo to remove the dial.
    @zGhost- please keep in mind I was in a severe time crunch!! I had no chance to contact customer support, so I had to go on my own.
    @Nate- indeed, I agree the phone should ring like bloody hell:). I did charge the battery on that phone, still a no go. The new one startles the &^$@* out of me every time it rings now...cooooooool.....And the audio? Well, that's for us MAKErs to figure out now, isnt it. You only did 99% of the work for us :)
    Note to all-
    My previous connection problems have been traced to Unicel (Unisck!) network services. I got the phone for use in Vermont, and hoped to use the # down here in FL. Their service in VT scked, and it does here too. Using an ATT/cingular acct, the phone connects first try EVERY time on outgoing calls. No 3-5 ring (caller end) delay before the P.O.R. rings now either. MUUUUCH better. That problem solved!!
    @ MyBuddy- how are your mods going?

  • Member #416659 / about 11 years ago / 1

    I would really love to build this... wishlist please?

  • Member #87870 / about 11 years ago / 1

    OMG - Anyone done one in a Pay Phone version yet? Might have to do that if I ever have the slack time for it!

  • VladRoss / about 12 years ago / 1

    Be careful! Check your power adapter before use: I've received my phone from Sparkfun with 9V adapter instead of 5V. I was very frightened when I've seen the smoke after powering it on. So I immediately replace 9V adapter with my own 5V. Fortunately the phone wasn't harmed.

    Other drawbacks: - the phone can't charge and receive calls simultaneously. For me it is major disadvantage, so I'm thinking of replacing the battery with regular power source. - no charge or signal indicator. All LEDs are inside the case. - there are a lot of scratches and even some rust on the metallic bottom of the phone's case

    But still I like it very much. The phone does it's job and has authentic look.

  • gswallow / about 12 years ago / 1

    This would go so well with my Radioshack TRS-80 Model 100 I'm carrying around. Would there be an option to send a phone for conversion? Would that possible save a few dollars? Few is probably the key word there.

  • pu241 / about 12 years ago * / 1

    Quirky... but cool. I think I'll hold out for a "Get Smart" shoe phone.

  • DrJake / about 13 years ago / 1

    Question for those who will answer! Is it possible to wire in an antenna? Perhaps even one sold on this site!? Just to boost reception say, indoors, or in valleys, etc. It just seems this phone isn't going to pick up signal as well... But that's besides the point. My question is can you hook up an antenna.

    • Klone38 / about 13 years ago /

      Yes in fact that This antenna is actually coiled up inside the phone. I suppose it should be fairly simple just to swap that out with any cellular antenna that you want.

  • Member #232874 / about 13 years ago / 1

    Would this phone work on a Sprint plan or is it designed more for a prepaid plan?

  • Member #232874 / about 13 years ago * / 1

    Has anyone tried using a rotary phone with the built in ring indicator light on it? Maybe having a way to toggle the ringer and use just the light whenever you choose. Kinda like silent/vibrate mode on a normal cell phone.
    Rotary phone with ring indicator light.

  • dcormier / about 13 years ago / 1

    "PIN #" is redundant. =]

  • aas / about 13 years ago / 1

    I bet texting's a real pain with this thing

  • baum / about 13 years ago / 1

    Why does red die cost you 100 dollars? Red phone is $300.

    • Derand / about 13 years ago / 1

      these are actual vintage rotary phones, so my guess is red vintage phones are much harder to come by / more expensive.

  • poolecl / about 13 years ago / 1

    Have you ever considered releasing this in a kit format sans the rotary phone?

    • Creëermeneer / about 13 years ago / 1

      I would also love to see this as a electronics kit!
      We would be able to build it into other phones and shipment would be far less costly!

  • Member #168747 / about 13 years ago / 1

    Love this product. You guys should definitely build different types of desk and wall phones in this manner. Like one decade forward, a wall phone with buttons and perhaps a simple number/name display. Maybe even up and down arrow buttons to browse the contacts saved on the SIM card.<br />
    <br />
    I don't vote for the SMS features though, that just goes too far.

  • distar97 / about 14 years ago / 1

    Years back I was in the telephone business, exporting rotaries in 10-100k lot shipments to countries that had lacked tone dialing. For fun, I once rejiggered a phone to work via radio. This was before cordless became the norm.
    Looking at the cell rotary is like going full circle in an odd way. I love the idea and will order one just to toy with friends into believing the old stuff was totally future-proofed.

  • Volkemon / about 15 years ago / 1

    Ok- finally got my act together and started a thread in the forum.
    It is in wireless/RF. search "port-o-rotary" or "POR".
    Let's MAKE this happen!!
    Note- even though you are logged in/registered to the comments here, you must do another register for the forum. Same username and password, but you have to activate again via email. Click on register up top.
    Took me a few failed login attempts at the forum to figure this out...D'Oh!

  • wd6cmu / about 15 years ago / 1

    Regarding removing the dial: If it's like the classic rotary phone, there's a small hole in the dial just inside the radius of the finger holes. Poke a paper clip in there to push the spring latch down a bit to disengage it, then turn the dial counter-clockwise a fraction of a turn until it comes off.

  • zGhost / about 15 years ago / 1

    I just ordered my Port-o-Rotary for my Luddite friend. I plan on adding some sort of phone book (at worse a DTMF dialer key chain).
    I would also like to add encryption to make a secure crypto phone....
    Well some of these comments are new and scary. I hope I don't have similar problems as Volkemon. My Luddite friend will freak out.

  • KevinTriplett / about 15 years ago / 1

    What a cool product! The best feature is the call quality. On the unit I received, the audio on both ends was much better than I expected, better than my iPhone (maybe because of the speaker and mic size).
    It did take a couple of tries to connect to the network but once it connected, both dialing out and receiving calls went smoothly and as advertised. Thanks for the great product!

  • Volkemon / about 15 years ago / 1

    Well...Thanks and Kudos to Sparkfun for not pulling these comments....:)
    Still...No reply? Nobody out there playing with these phones?
    Well, it was a gamble. From all the plugs on MAKEblog I was hoping for a more vibrant community.
    FYI to those considering purchase.

    • Good, fair reviews. Thanks! As for the delayed response - we're uh, busy. That's my excuse and I'm sticking to it.
      All batteries are shipped disconnect for safety reasons.
      The ringer should ring like bloody hell. If not, charge the bat.
      I created the Portable Rotary Phone for mere shock factor. I am sorry the audio is not what you had hoped.

  • Volkemon / about 15 years ago / 1

    (almost over...)
    I too would LOVE to add some more features, but searched the forum here with "port o rotary" with no meaningful matches. I am also going to rebuild this using an american phone to allow a modular cord and handset. And figure out a better mic, so I dont have to repeat myself to the other party all the time.
    All in all, a cool product, but still in the beta phase IMO. Rarely connects with the first dial attempt after boot, but always thereafter. Anyone out there want to share ideas?
    Thanks!! And again- Sparkfun's customer service is the BEST. Thanks again for that.

  • Volkemon / about 15 years ago / 1

    Then I actually tried to carry on a conversation with a friend. The voice quality was so poor...taking the mouthpiece apart, clean the contacts with an eraser...nope. Sounds like I am under a few towels. Lucky for the spare phone..its mic was much better, allowing my words to be understood. Still kinda fuzzy, but that is vintage for ya...
    Still trying to figure out how to remove the dial so I can change the insert. Figured out that the blue light on the board means battery charging. (not in instructions..)"wrong" power supply according to directions, but tech support said it was a recent change. This phone also does not have a modular handset cord, but a wired in one. Makes replacement a pain.
    Build quality and testing both scored low. Service? A++!!

  • Volkemon / about 15 years ago / 1

    Damn. Spent the next hour trying to get it to ring, then discovered it would when I took off the cover and held the 'hook' down...ended up the assembly was bent, and didnt hang up. Sure enough, when checked, I could faintly hear the dial tone through the earpiece while hung up. A careful adjustment (bend the metal support ass'y) the phone hung up when assembled. Finally. Now to test....Huh. One or two strong dings, then the rest of the ring a pathetic clacking. Thinking maybe it was a low battery I left it to charge for a few hours. Same result.
    This would not do. I ended up disassembling both phones, and using the BT body and SIM guts. (Resisted the urge to keep that bigger battery...) After it was all together, it worked. Oh boy did it. The ring still makes me jump each time, then smile.:)

  • Volkemon / about 15 years ago / 1

    Well, after a year of looking at it, I finally bought one. Due to a shipping error. I recieved the bluetooth one by accident! HUGE kudos to Dana (and others behind the scenes) for shipping the replacement overnight, on a saturday(!) so it could be the star of the party sunday.
    Turned out to be a blessing that two phones were here. On opening the new, correct phone to insert the sim card, I was surprised to find the battery and electronics disconnected, and in disarray. (The bluetooth also was disconnected, but at least had some double sided tape keeping the battery and electronics secure.)(The TRIPLE battery in the bluetooth was coveted, but left in there.....) Inserting the SIM card, and plugging in the wires,turn it on and reassemble, all easy. Single boot ring, double boot ring...cool! Had the dial tone, and on the second try, connected with my other cell phone. YeeeHaw! I then dialed the P-O-R and... nothing. Damn.

  • Nobody / about 16 years ago / 1

    How about adding caller ID? Love the idea of having one of these, but would still want to screen calls.

    • We could add a lot of features like a screen for caller ID, some buttons for a phone book, and maybe a belt clip. But then it wouldn't be a good old rotary phone anymore.

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