Calling 1998

This archaic bit of technology reminded me of old times the other day when I was traveling through Union Station in Chicago.

public telephone

What’s that, say you teenagers? It’s what we used to have on nearly every street corner, in the rear of many stores and in the entryway of most restaurants, back before we carried our phones with us everywhere we went.

There are about 300,000 pay phones across America, say phone industry officials, but the national total is tiny compared with the all-time high of 2.6 million in 1998, just before cell phones took off, according to a recent story about pay phones in the San Francisco Chronicle.

That silver snake-like thing? It’s a cord, a device to keep you tethered to the phone while speaking (or listening). No privacy for you, no siree bub. That big black U-shaped thing? It’s the handle connecting the speaker for your ear with the mouthpiece. And those finger-sized buttons. Yes, they are buttons big enough to actually press the correct numbers.

Oh, how quaint.

And if I had composed a better picture, you could see the coin slot on top — for collecting money for every call. “Changes may apply” never goes out of style.

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3 responses to “Calling 1998

  1. it would have really been quaint if it’d had a dial instead of push buttons! 🙂 These are great if you need a phone and your cell’s battery is dead or you left it at home, though. But I don’t know anyone’s number as they are all on the memory of my cell.

  2. And pity poor Superman … no place to change anymore!

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