You would not believe where teenagers used to hang out before mobile phones!

You would not believe where teenagers used to hang out before mobile phones!

Before the age of the mobile phone, teenagers of the 80’s used to spend their free time hanging around the red phone box!

To the younger members of the Firstcom team the thought of using a payphone is alien and the figure of 33,000 calls a day handled by call boxes was brought into question. BT say that children, the elderly and people who can’t afford mobiles regularly use booths. Those of us who were teenagers in the 80’s spent a while reminiscing about hanging around the village phone box, and making reverse charges calls to parents when we’d missed the last bus home. It was probably freezing and our parents were no doubt furious about paying for the call, but the phone box was a central point, somewhere to congregate and socialise. It’s difficult to imagine today’s teenagers looking back fondly at gathering round a mobile to post something on Snapchat!

On the back of BT announcing the switch off of it’s ISDN network in 2025, we have also learnt that half of the UK’s telephone boxes will go over the next five years. The K2 red phone box was voted one of the UK’s top design icons in 2016. With its future uncertain, we thought  it would be a good time to find out some facts about the phone box.

  • The first standard public phone box was introduced in 1920 by the Post Office and was actually made of concrete. Six of these K2 boxes still exist and have Grade II listed status. There are two situated on British streets; one in Hull and the other in the Isle of Wight.
  • In 1992 before mobile became popular there were 92,000 phone boxes in the UK.
  • Public phone boxes handle 33,000 calls a day. But one third of kiosks are never used to make a call.
  • The police, the AA and the RAC we the first organisations to make use of phone kiosks in a business sense, by commissioning a network of sentry boxes for officers, patrolmen and customers to use.
  • BT will scrap 20,000 of the existing 40,000 phone boxes over the next five years.
  • The annual cost of maintaining the phone boxes is £6m. This includes replacing glass, repairing handsets and cleaning up graffiti.
  • There are 7,000 of the traditional red phone boxes designed to commemorate the 1935 silver jubilee still in use in the UK.
  • BT’s adopt a kiosk scheme has allowed local communities to convert little used red phone boxes into libraries, art galleries and even a defibrillator unit!

Of course progress and technological advances are a great thing; Firstcom is after all part of the march towards Internet based communications, but we should not forget that the best way for businesses and individuals to communicate is often to speak to one another, and the phone box played a crucial part in facilitating this.



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