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Steve Hilsz
Steve Hilsz
Age: 65
Company: Navy Salvage and Phone Surplus
Technology: Rotary phones
Number of repairs: 15 a week
Location: Salome, Ariz.

Hilsz started scouring military surplus stores for parts and trading his repairs for old phones at age 15. Half a century later, he's repaired, built, or reconditioned about 8,000 phones.

He worked with oak and brass crank phones during the nostalgia craze in the 1970s and sold refurbished ones to retailers once the break up of AT&T into regional carriers meant people could own their phones.

Now, he restores World War II Army field versions, mostly for military reenactors, but repairs on old rotaries and dials still make up the majority of his business.

"Everybody picks them up," he says. "They're the last anchor to what they remember before everything was disposable and digital."

NEXT: "Mister Betamax"
Last updated April 12 2010: 9:30 AM ET
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