100,000 payphones still haunt the United States

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/03/20/100000-payphones-still-haunt.html


He wasn’t from the 30s, but do you know who had a sassy secretary?


Not now, @anon24181555, you vulgar lush!

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I think public payphones are a good thing.


I have mulled over the idea of “payphones” with the ability to send out it’s GPS location and also give access to certain useful apps like Uber via a touch screen. There are times one might not have a functional phone on them and without it you’re unable to get an Uber or use specific services.

That being said it sounds like a complicated and expensive thing to set up and to not have many people use it. There might be good use cases though.

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a sassy secretary.

That’s what my dear Wife refers to me as.


I was taking my kids on a Family Road Trip in the American West. We stop for lunch at a road side diner. I saw a payphone in the back by the restrooms.
I dragged my kids back to explain what they were and how they worked.
I remember the waitress laughed at me but my kids had no real idea what a payphone was or how it works.


I mean whatever spices up your personal life man.


What I miss about payphones was jotting down the number when I found one, and then later calling it to see who might answer. Unfortunately the phone companies started making a lot of payphones “outgoing only” because drug dealers would use them to contact waiting customers.


I remember the halcyon days of the early nineties in NYC, when the phone company dragged a bunch of rotary dial payphones out of storage to install in the shadier neighborhoods, so the drug buyers couldn’t use them to enter their dealer’s pager number into the auto-attendant.


We used to do that with the long banks of phones in train stations.

Ring one at one end until someone picked up. Hang up, and ring the one at the other end.

Sometimes you come across payphones that time and Bell forgot. I wonder if it’s still there.


i keep track of payphones because i refuse to carry a mobile device. when i was traveling in the olympic peninsula last summer i was in an area with zero cell phone coverage and when my friend and i pulled into a resort to look down on the beach there was a bank of four beautifully maintained and functioning payphone, in phonebooths even! it was a blast from the past.


I do as well, in case of emergencies.

Luckily, there are still some near most places of mass public transit in my area…


I miss the days of public phonebooks in call-boxes, where you could look someone up and dramatically rip out the page.

Ah, the 80s…


What’s a dime? Why does he need one to use the phone?

Some businesses will lend their phone to customers if they need to make calls. I don’t know what the official policy was but when i worked customer service once in a blue moon someone would ask to use the phone and it was never a problem.

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They’re like the paper plate faces that used to pop up now an again for no reason. A rare thing to see these days and a reminder of something that you can’t quite pin down.

In the aftermath of 9/11 every pay phone in lower Manhattan had a queue halfway around the block because those were the only phones that still worked. (It certainly didn’t help that the North Tower had been the site of one of the main transmission towers in the area.)


What with our phones acting as our external memories these days, I’m curious how many people can still remember the numbers of people to call for help if their cell phone goes missing.

  • Yes, of course I can remember the phone numbers for my parents and/or significant other.
  • Ten digit numbers? No way I can remember any of those.

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(I was disappointed when my own mom recently got rid of her old landline. The numbers spelled out “mama hen” on the keypad which was pretty easy to remember)


You can still dial just 7 digits? (I live in an area with multiple area codes, so 10 digits are always necessary)

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