Death of the Home Phone

When I first started carrying around a cell phone, I also maintained a landline. Over time, like most people, I eventually cancelled my landline, using my cell for everything instead. At the time, I didn’t give it a second thought. Having a cell phone meant never having to remote call an answering machine for an important message. It meant I could reach people on-the-go if plans changed last minute. The best perk was never having to use a (shudder) public pay phone. Using pay phones was both disgusting, even before covid, and required one to have the right change to use.

Twenty years later, I still hadn’t given it much thought until I heard a few things recently. I was listening to an old murder story on one of my favorite podcasts. In it, the host mentioned that the murderess had been receiving anonymous calls, as part of the storyline leading up to the murder. Apparently the person behind the anonymous calls is still unsolved. The host speculated that couldn’t happen today because we all have caller ID.

It brought me back to a time when the phone simply rang. Caller ID didn’t even exist yet. Or how we could *69 right after the call to see if we could trace where the call came from. Then there were ways to block your number if you didn’t want someone to know you were calling. With landlines shared by multiple people, or even using a dreaded payphone, it was easier to remain anonymous, or untraceable. Not that this was always a good thing, but could be useful if you didn’t want someone to have your name and number yet needed to call them.

I recently read an article discussing how children lost out on opportunities to practice basic conversation and communication skills by not having landlines. Growing up, I risked having to speak with my friend’s family members if I wanted to call her. Though I didn’t think of this as a necessary life skill at the time, I suppose it taught me how to be polite to other people. Or make small talk with someone or exchange pleasantries.

Another lost benefit of a landline is you were able to reach multiple people with a single call. You can replicate that by passing around one device. However, it means the device owner can’t use it until everyone is finished.

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