Mourning the Death of the Home Phone


If there is one thing that we as a society have not adequately mourned the loss of, it is the home phone.

Sometimes a technology dies and it’s like, meh, we aren’t going to miss that. All we did was get rid of the bad parts. DVD’s wiped out video tapes and guess what? No more rewinding. Movies just got more awesome. And as Blue Rays and Apple TV wipe out DVD’s, we’ll still have movies, they’ll just be better quality and more accessible.

But when the home phone died, a glorious piece of American life died with it.

vtech home phone
We got rid of our home phone when I was in 10th grade. Despite never using it once I got a cell phone, I protested extensively when my parents got rid of it. Something about having it there, just in case, seemed innately safe.

Growing up, home phone etiquette was the bane of my existence. My parents consistently mortified me by forcing politeness (I know, how dare they?!). Never allowed to call and simply say “can I talk to Krysta?” I was always required to introduce myself first. “Hi, this is Nadine, may I please speak to Krysta?” Like I said, mortifying. It was an integral part of childhood.

Now the home phone is going the way of the VCR, tapes, and records except for one thing: what we got in its place isn’t better. My cell phone regularly drops calls from my own home. It costs me $85 a month and frankly, it’s not really a phone. It’s a mini-computer. The thing it is worst at, by far, is making regular phone calls.

And now the death of the home phone is eliminating relationships, or at least inhibiting them. It occurred to me recently that if N and I only had a home phone, that over a year and a half of living together, I would have talked to his parents on the phone quite a bit. As it stands, two separate cell phones, they call N and I chime in for the occasional “hi”. The relationship with the in-laws is definitely one that’s been drastically impacted by the death of the home phone. I may never know them as well as I would have, had they had to call one phone and have a 50% chance of me picking up for the rest of our lives. It makes me kind of sad.

And what about parents? How do you even know who your kids are talking to? Sure, you can wait until you get the bill and then quiz the kiddos about “whose number is this?” but realistically, the home phone was a filter. You could talk to the person before your kid talked to them. You could pick up another phone and eavesdrop. You could boldly tell the caller that “Nadine is in the bathroom,” thereby mortifying her for the next millennium.

The point is, home phones rocked. I secretly still want one but am too cheap to pay to have a separate phone that we’d never use. We’ve phased them out of our lives.

So goodbye home phones. You were a wonderful piece of childhood and you’ll be a key element of my nostalgic daydreams for the rest of my adult life.

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