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.

  • Kai

    I always remember being yelled at to get off the phone by a certain time – darn that little red “on” light! Then I got my own phone in my bedroom and I was the coolest ever. Except that my mom could easily be listening.

    Poor children of today, they will never know

  • R.I.P. Home Phone. It makes me sad they have been phased out as well. I spent many a night talking on that phone. Waiting for it to ring, fighting with my sister over who was going to talk to their friend first. Being grounded from it because I got a B in math instead of an A. The excitement when call waiting happened. And really, who is E.T. going to phone if it isn’t home?

  • This is so true! Our home phone has been malfunctioning for years and nobody bothers to fix it because we don’t really use it that often. I remember the times when I would talk for hours with my best friends on the phone. Now that each person has their own mobile phone, families become more private and individualistic in a way…

  • There is an add-on to certain cell phone companies up here in Canada that allows you to have a “home phone” but it’s really your cell phone number attached to an actual landline phone at your house. It’s pretty cool actually.

  • Uggggh my parents used to make me introduce myself before asking for the person too and I hated it! Nobody else I knew had to do that! Oh and I had that green Vtech phone!

  • I actually work for a big Telco company selling the home services like internet, phone and TV and I sell home phones all day, every day. Most of the time people are keeping home phones they’ve had for years or asking for a new one because they just had kids and they want a back up safety feature for babysitters or emergencies so they may actually be making a come back! I plan on having one once I have a house and kids! Saves on cell bills and I don’t have to give the kids a phone as early!

  • Ashley

    I remember those colored v-tech phones! When I was in middle school my friends older sister had one in her room and I thought she was so cool!

  • My parents still have their home phone. We have a home phone, 2 cell phones and my husband’s work phone (he works from home). I want my children to know what a home phone is and to learn that number instead of having to learn Mommy’s number and Daddy’s number. Call me old fashioned but I just can’t do away with the home phone! I still ask people to rsvp and use a wall calendar! Crazy!!

  • SO many middle school memories of calling my friends or boys in the middle of the night while hiding in the closet. And I still have so many of their phone numbers memorized whereas now, I only have my parents’ numbers memorized!

  • I had a rotary phone for the longest time growing up…..I definitely don’t miss that one! Remember the anxiety of calling a boys home phone and if their parents picked up? I still cringe thinking of those days!

  • You know I’ve never really thought about the home phone in that way, and haven’t had one myself for about eight years. But you are completely right about the missed opportunity of building relationships with in-laws and the likes. On the positive – I love being able to face time and skype. This technology makes living on the other side of the world from your family much easier.
    Claire xx
    somewhere… beyond the sea

  • I had that same Green V-tech phone. Oh the memories. Cell phones are the reason why I can’t remember anyone’s number. I miss talking for hours to a friend now we just text with a call in here or there. Such memories attached to the home phone. Making crank calls before call id came around. Memories.

  • bri

    My mom would always lecture my friends when they called me on the house phone. “Is Bri there?” She’d answer yes then sit in silence until they asked to speak to me properly. It was mortifying as a teenager…but apparently something my kids won’t have to experience since we don’t have a home phone in my house.

  • I remember the times sneaking on the phone during junior high and high school late at night hoping that whoever I was calling parent did not answer. Even tho I have a cell phone. I still have a house phone b/c I have little people and I enjoy screening there calls and make sure they have proper phone etiquette when calling there friends.

  • I still have a home phone, in fact we have three phones one corded and two cordless phones and my mum rings me every night on the home phone, hell she rings a lot on the home phone our phone gets a lot of use…………

  • I was just thinking today about how I missed the home phone! So true.

  • SO TRUE! haha i had the purple version of that clear phone in my bedroom and thought it was the coolest thing in the world!

  • I agree! That is something younger generations will never get to experience. Especially having to call a boy and talk to his parents first. I still get heart palpitations thinking about it!

  • Oh so true…farewell, eavesdropping! Also the satisfaction of slamming the phone when angry is gone.

  • This weekend I asked Bryan if he thought we would ever have a home phone, including when we have children some day, and after he said we probably wouldn’t I felt really sad. I never thought in-laws thing, but that is definitely true and now I am an even more sad that we will probably never have one again!

  • I never really thought of this – what number are kids supposed to memorize? Their parents cell phone number?

  • Talk about nostalgia. I had my “own line” growing up, with my very own answering machine that my best friend and I would create snazzy (yes, I just said that..) voicemails on. We were cool.

  • Loved this piece. Damn good writing. Am pretty nostalgic about many things too..home phone was never on the top list, but now I am left thinking if it should be!

  • and all the endless hours of talking on the home phone with your girlfriends! how i miss that! i mean, what, are we just expected to not “hold up the line” while we endlessly discuss what we will wear to school the next day!

  • I begged my husband to get a home phone for us. I HATE using my cell phone, unless I’m out and about obviously, but even then I don’t like it. The home phone is not that expensive and plus I don’t like giving my cell phone number out to just anybody (aka anybody who’d sell it to telemarketers).

  • I hate home phones. I feel like the only calls that come through on them anymore are from people selling stuff, because everyone else… calls your cell phone.

  • I am totally mourning with you. Call waiting and 3-way calling were so much cooler back then. I kinda want to go back to the neon see through phones!

  • I had that same phone in your picture but it was blue and I thought it was the coolest thing ever. I never thought about the relationships you kind of lose over not having a home phone! I’m also kind of sad that I won’t be able to listen to my children’s conversations on speaker phone like my parents did when I was a teenager. When I was on the phone with one of my girlfriends and she mentioned a “clitorus” and when I asked “what’s a clitorus?” and heard hysterical laughter coming from downstairs, I knew what was up. But I was 14 and probably should’ve known what one was.

  • we still have our home phone because of my mom. she’s not into technology and has a hard time with her flip phone!! that said, having our home line is ridiculously expensive! it’s almost $50 a month!!

    but i get that; my husband and i talk about when we will let our daughter have a cell phone. seems that they have them younger and younger these days when they don’t even need it. back in my day, you were lucky if you even had a pager! remember those? and i’m not even talking about text pagers but a numeric one and you had to call into your voice mail to get your message.

    Vodka and Soda

  • I was just thinking about this the other day. It’s weird how the home phone used to be such an important thing. I remember getting my OWN LINE for my 18th birthday and that was the coolest thing ever. Now I have a “smart” phone and rarely ever use it for a phone. Because why talk when you can text? And why text when you can Instagram?

  • I didn’t realize I was super nostalgic for a home phone until I saw this picture of a cordless phone. I had the same one in purple as a pre-teen! I can’t remember exactly when we got a home phone, but we moved around a lot and I think we just setting it up at some point.

    But you’re totally right about the cell phone thing. It’s just not the same. I miss my funky purple phone and being able to comfortably hold it between my ear and shoulder while multitasking during long phone calls with far away friends. I love my iPhone but I hate actually making phone calls on it and wait until i’m in front of my work phone (which is a landline) 95% of the time.

    Totally wish I could justify still having one.

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