Phone Home

For all you youngsters out there this crazy looking sci-fi transporter-like box below is a Phone Booth.

Austrian Phone Booth

Austrian Phone Booth

Now I know what you’re thinking, “that’s crazy, someone would just pick up the phone and take it home!”

Actually, this old school device is from an era when phones were attached to the wall and you couldn’t walk around with them. You had to go to a specific place, either in public or at home to use them. It was a time when cellular referred to the layout of a prison and Bluetooth was a dental condition.

Phone Booths used to be everywhere in America, although they didn’t look much like the industrial strength post modernist device in the picture. Every country road, city street corner, drug store and bus stop had at least one, sometimes whole banks of them. Yes, they were very impractical but it was all that existed in the way of personal public communication. They required coins and finding change on a deserted country road after your car broke down at 2am was not easy. You inserted the proper amount of coins into the phone and dialed the number.

Number? Yes, you know all those contacts in your phone, well actually there are numbers associated with them and you used to have to remember those numbers or look them up in a Phone Book, a large directory that listed every person and every business in a community, and was attached to the inside of the booth. This Austrian phone appears to be in perfect working order and still has its Phone Book in place.

Phone Booths have pretty much disappeared in America. In order to find one now you will probably have to go to places like South Chicago, East LA or Detroit, but even there they don’t work anymore. What they are now is an ongoing urban sculpture project by the defunct National Bell Telephone Network that illustrates our ever-expanding urban blight and out of control illegal drug culture. As an interactive art project vandals have been allowed, perhaps even encouraged to break the windows, rip out the phones, cover them in graffiti and use the phone books for toilet paper. And believe me it has worked perfectly. While in Austria, these lo-tech communication devices still look good and work great, in America nothing says slums, poverty, crime, danger and decay more effectively than our version of these little artistic gems.

America Phone Booth

America Phone Booth

2 thoughts on “Phone Home

  1. jeanette

    Ha, that first one is very cool. Saw a couple phone booths in Scotland but they had been converted into “Wi-Fi hotspots” – clever I thought 🙂


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