Since I can remember I’ve never lived in a place with no phone line… until now. Two weeks ago I switched my Internet from AT&T’s DSL (which required a landline) to Comcast cable. With everyone in the family having their own cell phone it begged the question – why do we need a landline?
In fact, if I was the only one home the phone never got answered when it rang anyway. The only calls that ever came on it were sales calls, charities looking for donations, political ads or more generally someone I didn’t want to talk to. The only excuse I could come up
with for keeping it was that the home phone number was the one I always gave out to people. (Obviously I’m antisocial.) My wife pointed out that I could still give it out. I liked that idea even better, so we pulled the plug.
Now I know my avid readers are wondering about my recent blog regarding “cutting the cord” where I was referring to having a dedicated TV provider such as Dish Network versus just using the Internet. No I haven’t done that quite yet. That’s coming… after March madness. One has to have priorities in life. Check back in April.
Back to the main topic – I can no longer honestly fill in the blanks on forms where it says “Home Phone”. I must admit that’s a little bit disconcerting. I’m sure this skittishness of having no landline is generational; it’s just so ingrained in growing up. Even the term is relatively new. Before cell phones you just said you had a home phone. But actually, who didn’t? Now it’s, who doesn’t have a cell phone?
Now let’s go way back. Before the term landline, we had “party lines” and “private lines”. I’m not talking about the ‘80’s where you had 1-900-PARTIES. A party line was where you and some number of your neighbors shared a phone line. I’m not making this up. You each had a phone in your home but only one line, and if your neighbor was talking on their phone you could pick up your phone and join in the conversation… or maybe just listen and collect juicy information. (People who used to do that all work for the NSA today). A “private line” meant that you had your own line coming into the house, that you did not have to share with anyone. Those were the people with money.
Eventually the world progressed and everyone had dedicated lines. But one home typically had just the one phone. How do you have any phone privacy sitting in the kitchen with the rest of the family? Technology to the rescue… extremely long phone cords. You know the curled cords on non-cell phones connecting the handset to the phone base? Think of one that can stretch thirty feet. The phone base would stay put, often mounted on the wall, then you would go to another room stretching the cord, closing the door, hopefully not cutting the cord, and have your private conversation. Of course that left the rest of the family to navigate around / over / under the cord stretched throughout the house
Time marched on and gave us “extensions”. Not like an extension on a PBX at the office where you actually have an extension number like, x1234. This was essentially back to having party lines, but all the phones were in your home. Once again, the future NSA’ers were able to practice their craft, but this time only on family members. Then there was the interim cordless phones, like the ones I just pitched, that took us from the wired life to the psuedo-wired. But that was just a stepping stone to wire-less.
And now in the age of constant connectivity when we can’t imagine life without cell phones, an era is passing. Sure we still have wires coming into the home, but it’s all about Internet bandwidth. I still have a “normal” phone (base and handset) for my work, but it’s an IP phone using only the Internet for communications. It seems the concept of a phone company is an anachronism. Ma Bell is on her last leg.