As part of our ongoing look at being ‘plugged in’, the topic fell on landline phones. Growing up, I have fond memories of verbally sparring with my siblings in order to gain access to the sole landline phone going in/out of the house. However, I don’t have a landline phone in my house now and my son will never grow up with battle scars of telephone battles lost.
Alexander Graham Bell is accredited with the patent for the invention of the modern telephone, although there is some uncertainty whether he should be accredited with the invention solo. The first telephones were on a closed circuit network, where each phone connected directly to another phone. Then larger networks which included multiple destinations for telephones became the norm.
Over half of Americans do not have a landline phone.
In 1947 area codes were introduced and phone numbers became universally 10 digits long instead of regionally divided four and five digit phone numbers. By the 1980s, the telephone system became automated and operators slowly disappeared. In 2000, 90% of Americans had a landline phone. As of 2016, 49.6% of Americans had a landline phone in their home. More than half of Americans now don’t have landline phones in their home. However, true landlines (not ones based on internet, but on copper wires) make up less than 20% of ‘landline’ phones.
However, landlines still exist, sometimes in plain site!
Recently, I went on a road trip through the midwest, a mysterious backwards place where ‘small town America’ can still be found. On this trip, I saw not only land line phones, but real working AT&T pay phones; multiple ones. I noticed more land lines than I had ever noticed before. I live and work in a world solely based around my cell phone and my laptop. This rediscovery of a mythical corded telephone was astonishing, my son found it down right amazing. So, I went in search for reasons to keep your landline home phone. What were the benefits? Are there benefits? The resounding answer I return to you with is, sorta.
Surprisingly, there are still a few benefits to having a landline phone.
Should you be in a high rise on a cell phone calling emergency personnel, the cell phone will ping your GPS location to the operator. However, it will not tell that operator what floor you are on, whereas a land line provides an exact location to the line. Additionally, landlines (that are not battery operated) work after the power has gone out, unlike cell phones which require an electrical charge. But other than those very specific reasons, I honestly could not find an advantage to a landline phone.
The majority of landline phones used today are for business and emergency purposes. Landlines aren’t found on bedside tables or in the kitchen next to the ‘to-do’ pad; now landline phones are mostly found in offices, elevators, hospitals and call centers. They are right in front of us, even if we don’t notice them. In a world that is constantly evolving to be more mobile, the landline phone stands its ground.