Once the Mobile Phones conquered the market, and after that the introduction of Smartphones, it was for us very easy to reach and be reachable everywhere. If, for lot of reason, it was a huge improvment in the communication and safety, on the other side it was the end of something that last for years in lot of the streets in our cities: The Phone Box! Let’s just celebrate it!
I was born in the early 90s and i get old enough to know what was around me only in the late 90s. In that specific moment in time, lot of people had mobile phones and they were in shops to be sold…even inf they were as expencive as the iPhone is right now. But not everyone were in possess of a mobile phone, like myself and my family. So, when i was around i would not have had the opportunity to call my mom or my dad in case of emergency. But, luckly for me, in specific places in the city there were boxes where a phone was set there to be used in case of necessity.
I lived in Italy and we have our version of those phone boxes, but they looked and worked exactly like the one you can still watch in some 80s movies: it was basically a box of glass, with doors you can open and close, with a phone in it. They were for the public use, but they were not for free. Nothing in this world was, is and never will be for free.
It was all about money.
If you wanted to use that phone, you must have with you a lot of coins…a lot of coins. Why the coins? Because phone boxes accepted only coins and the calls were expencive. It was irrelevant if you called from home, from a mobile phone or from a phone box, the calls were expencive. The biggest difference is that with the mobile phone and the phone at home you paid with your bank account (at least in Italy), but with the phone box you had to use coin to pay a certain amount of time you could stay on the phone…and if you were young and without a job, the time you were allowed to spend of the phone were not a lot at all. For that reason, people (especially teenagers and kids) used mobile boxes only in case of huge emergency, like the car was broken, or someone tried to kill us. You didn’t call if you forgot the umbrella at home: if it rained that day, you had no other choice than walk home under the pouring rain.
I don’t know if in your country you had that too, but in Italy we had the opportunity to buy “credit card” for phone boxes, where you could load some credit in it and use that card instead of the coin. It was freaking brillian because brinign with you all those coins, even in you didn’t need it, was horrible and pretty heavy. With those prepaid card we knew that we had a way to communicate with someone and it was absolutely very light. I thing my sister or my mom have still some of them…i don’t know. I don’t see those cards since a couple of decades.
There was only a little tiny problem: they were no where near to be accessable and easily found. Probably in the United States they were on every corner, but i live right outside Milan and nope…very few mobile phone in the city and very hard to find. In the town i lived, there were only one i knew the location…probably there were just few more here and there. No one have never said like “oh, there are a phone box at every corner, it’s amazing!”, because it wasn’t the case. Maybe it was just too expencive to build so many boxes, but it would have been a much better service.
They had their utility in the 80s, maybe the early 90s, but then fewer and fewer people use them. we came to the point, in the 2000s, where no one used them anymore, because of mobile phones. After 2010 they were destroyed forever. It was for me a little bit sad not to see them anymore. I know that the world moves on and old thing have to leave the space for something new, but those boxes were part of my childhood, because they were there.
I don’t miss them right now technically, because i don’t need them, but there’s a connection between me and them. Every time i see those i get a little emotional, remembering my happy childhood!