Kid sees payphone for first time: WTF?


I’ve told younger relatives they’re “old fashioned cell phones”. This is comparable to the time a kid went in to use my mother-in-law’s rotary phone and was completely flummoxed by it.

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You could talk on it and it made a formidable weapon too!

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BB commenter sees kid apparently not knowing how to read, says ‘WFT?’

“The uploader has not made this video available in your country”

Oh good look, it’s available on MSN and the Daily Fail

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Naah, for weaponizing, we prefer one of the old metal 302s instead of those modern, plastic 500s…

I recall walking my kids to school about 10 years ago. An ‘antique’ (70s model) car drove by and stalled. One of my kids said, “What’s that?”

Claims that the kid was confused were proven false when he picked up the phone and said, “Sarah, can ya get me Barney at the Mount Pilot hotel?”


In the US at least, pay phones that are actually owned and operated by the local telco have become especially rare. Typically, you’ll only see them in places where cellular service is spotty or nonexistent. When they exist, their service has devolved quite a bit. You can’t dial long-distance calls direct, other than toll-free numbers (so you could use a prepaid calling card). I’ve even seen them operating in post-pay mode for local calls (called party answers, and the microphone is muted until you deposit coins).

I wonder if toll stations still exist? These were pay phones out in the middle of nowhere, where all calls were handled by an operator. They could be found mainly in Nevada and isolated parts of California. Shenandoah National Park had a few as well, and I remember seeing one in person on Mt. Washington.

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For some reason, Terminal 3 at Pearson Airport in Toronto still has banks of payphones all over (along with a massive iPad bar that is pretty much obsolete already, since everyone has an iPad/phablet). My 3 year old kept himself entertained by picking up each receiver and listening until it said “Please hang up and try your call again”.

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Don’t underestimate the Model 500. It’s may have a plastic shell, but it’s thick, solid polycarbonate.

It’s a fairly formidable weapon — you could knock someone unconscious with one blow and then use it to call 'em an ambulance.

Don’t ask me how I know this. (-:


Rotary phones make me feel nostalgic, even though I was still really young when they started going away. That photo makes me think of a woman who worked with my father in the 70s. Her name was Vi, and she had a pale blonde beehive hairdo and long pearly white nails. I was 7 and thought she was glamorous (she probably wasn’t that glamorous, but she was pretty and she was nice to me). Vi couldn’t dial the phone with her fingers/nails, so she dialed using these thick pens with a triangle cross-section, that she kept in a mug on her desk. Needless to say I was impressed with Vi.

Our family made extra money by cleaning the office on weekends, and I had my tasks, including wastebaskets, sweeping and windows. I enjoyed doing it, the work was easy and sometimes my folks would buy me a coke, from a vending machine with glass bottles. The whole thing was groovy to 7 year old me, but man… Vi made me want to be a secretary in an office where I could dial rotary phones with triangle pens and have long fingernails. Life’s funny.


ha, ha! it’s funny because we’re old! no, wait, that isn’t right. it’s funny because he’s young! yeah, that’s it.

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I remember being really excited when we were moving to a new house in the late 70s, because the new house had button-dial (dial? is that the right term?) phones instead of rotary [note to the young 'uns: this was back in the day when the phone company owned the telephones]. Woohoo, Progress!


Back in the day, dial phones used a speed regulator mechanism to slow down the return of the dial so that the equipment back at the central could count the number of clicks (on-hook off-hook in rapid succession) (1 = one click, 2 = two clicks, etc) to figure out what number you dialed.

The dial’s speed regulator had two brakes. You could speed up the return by scotch taping one or both of the brakes so that the dial returned faster than when you dialed it - assuming your central’s equipment was fairly new.

/You could dial a number by slapping the hook, though I could only manage long distance numbers to the downtown NYC.

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I figured out how to do that on a Columbia/Sony soundstage in 1991. There were two stage phones, and the one reserved for incoming calls had had the dial removed. I was the only guy on the show who could dial out on that phone by slapping the switchhook to duplicate the action of the missing rotary dial. I felt like I deserved a cape for figuring out how to do that.

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On the plus side, hardwired phones like that will still work when cell towers go down. It’s one of the reasons we never ditched our land line. We also have a couple in the parking lot at the library, and get plenty of confused/mean looks when we tell people they can use the phone out there.

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The interesting thing here isn’t that he hasn’t seen a specific kind of telephone – it’s how radically the word “phone” has changed meaning in his lifetime. Voice communication is the least interesting feature of phones! Imagine your parents telling you that anything which has a fan in it is called a car.


True story, my son and I were watching an old episode of the Brady Bunch when he was around 8 years old. Marcia grabs the phone and goes in the other room dragging the cord. My son looks at me and says, why do they have the phone tied down?


The ‘proper’ name for that is touch-tone, as I recall.