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With houses and other small, residential buildings, the phone company supplies wires from their pole or underground lines, and terminates them in a small junction box or demarc (as in demarcation, and pronounced "DEE-mark" by the guys whose pants hang too low) or network interface device or NID (pronounced "nid" by the aforementioned low-hanging-pants guys), attached to the outside of the house. Sometimes, in older boxes, the customer test jack has a short phone wire tail and connector already plugged in. Most boxes have 3 or 4 pairs of wiring posts, even though most of the time there are only two wire pairs coming from the street.
Do NOT confuse the two-line splitter adapter mentioned above, with the more common, identical-looking duplex adapter. In a perfect world, for each jack in your house, there would be one bundle of four wires (of which you usually only use two), going to the junction box and connecting to the wiring posts.
Tools: You can do almost anything related to phone wiring with relatively normal tools (screwdrivers, wire strippers or scissors, a multimeter with a continuity or resistance function). A "slimline"-style phone will also work, provided that, again, the hanger-upper is in the handset. You take the small square part with the wires dangling off of it, put a 9-volt battery in it, plug its modular connector into your wall jack, and turn on its toggle switch. Home Controls is the premier national distributor for the most comprehensive and unique home automation systems!
This makes sense if you think of it electrically -- there have to be at least two wires to make a complete circuit.
The names come from the early days of the phone system, when operators at the CO (Central Office) physically unplugged, moved, and reinserted large microphone-esque plugs in a giant switchboard, to connect individual calls. I will henceforth refer to it as "the box." The box is typically plastic, about a foot square or a little less, with a weatherproof gasket and a screw holding the cover tightly shut. The idea here is that, if a problem occurs, the customer can open the simplified side of the box and try the line with a standard phone; if the line works at the box, but not inside the house, then there is a problem inside the house, which is the customer's problem. In this case, keep in mind that when you unplug that little tail and plug in your own phone to test, your house's wiring is now physically disconnected from the box. In some boxes, they are exposed when you open the main customer access cover, but in other boxes they each have their own mini-cover. I supposed the logic here is that it's trivially easy and inexpensive to run another set of wires from the street, but it's more involved and costly to swap out a whole box for that relatively-rare person who needs more than two lines.
The two-line splitter takes EACH pair and sends it to the center two wires of each of two single jacks; a duplex adapter simply duplicates the center pair in two jacks. In other words, you abandon the damaged base pair entirely, and use the 2nd pair as an in-place replacement.

It has extra buttons and bells and whistles which do not concern us; the main feature is, the alligator clips.
I found one at a surplus electronics company for about $20, working except for having had its clips clipped. The tricky thing here is that they are typically tiny, delicate wires, and if you don't provide some kind of support or strain relief, they will quickly fatigue and break where they are attached to the alligator clips. Then you go to the box and poke the probe near the bundle of wires, and the probe will make an audible warbling beep that gets louder as you get closer to the right wire. When visitors arrive at your front door or gate, all they have to do is press the Call button to let you know they are outside. Whether you are a professional installer or a do-it-yourself homeowner, our online store carries the supplies you need including: whole home automation, smart home systems, remote lighting and appliance controls, home security and video surveillance, home theatre, audio and video distribution, networking, telephones and intercoms, climate controls, central vacuums, structured wiring systems, installation tools and accessories, independent living devices, and so much more. The phone company's two pairs run to the back of the box, and each pair is in turn connected to one set (pair) of screw-terminal posts. So they just provide the extra posts even though most people never get more than two phone lines. In the same way that the phone company runs two pairs of wire and usually only uses one, your internal house wiring consists of two pairs (four wires total) to EACH wall jack. It is common, instead, for some OR all of the phone jacks in a house to be "daisy-chained" together, with only one set of wires coming out and connecting to the actual box. Sometimes there is a hangup button on both the base and the handset -- that's okay too -- but many have it ONLY in the base, and those aren't suitable for conversion, at least I haven't been able to figure out how. So what I usually do is carefully slice the outer insulation of the wire right down the middle, strip (sometimes with fire) the wire, and run it and its half of the insulation into the collar of the alligator clip together, then crimp down on both (making sure that the actual wire makes contact with the alligator clip's metal collar.) This way, the insulation acts as a splint for the thin wire inside.
The controller connects to your home telephone line and uses distinct ringtones to specify where the call is coming from. You typically only use the base pair, and in fact, most phones you buy today come with a phone cord that only has two wires in it. Furthermore, in some houses where this is the case, the Halloween pairs are left disconnected. You have to rewire the jack as well -- so that the Halloween pair connect to the middle two wire positions in the jack. Its real value lies in the fact that you can connect directly to a set of wiring posts, using the non-piercing ends of the clips, OR you can clip onto the ends of a bare wire. They are the center two wires out of four possible (if you peer carefully through the clear connector at the end you will see four grooves for four possible wires).

Only the aforementioned special two-line phones can make use of the outer pair, normal phones will only work with the inner pair.
This is somewhat hard to describe, but, the phone needs to be the kind with all of the circuitry, INCLUDING the hang-up button or hook, in the handset. When you have a meaningless and frightening bundle of wires to confront, and you need to find the other end of one, there is simply no substitute for this tool. If you want the guest to come in, press a button on your phone to allow them to use the keypad to enter the keycode.
Those are the meaningful colors in telco stuff, and the other wires are only black and yellow to distinguish them from the base pair. Business-style two-line phones have cords with four wires, and if you have two phone lines going to one jack, the 2nd line uses the Halloween pair (which is the two outer wires). This can actually be difficult to find -- most electronics places have phones that are too "nice" for this purpose, i.e.
It might've been less confusing to go with red and green-striped insulation for the 2nd pair, but they didn't do that thirty years ago, so they still don't. OR you can get a "2-line splitter" adapter at Radio Shack which splits the one jack with two lines, into two jacks each with one line. The sculpted keypad features large, easy-to-read numbers and symbols illuminated by overhead lights.
Try a chain pharmacy -- many have selections of small, cheap appliances, and here you are most likely to find the cheapest, shittiest telephone on Earth, which is just what you want. The kind that doesn't have a base, but rather that you "hang up" by setting down on a flat surface.
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