It appears that the landline is going the way of the Walkman, typewriter, quill pen, Bop It! and all those other technologies once so deeply embedded in people’s lives.
Eventually they will be used only by eccentrics and nostalgics, and displayed as exhibits in cultural museums. My 10-year-old ridicules them as “those banana phones”. So what exactly are we losing?
THE FIRST GASPS OF FREEDOM
For me, from about the age of 11 onwards, the landline was an umbilical cord that allowed me to stretch a little, to experience my first gasps of freedom. I would drag the battered, coiled cord from the hallway under my bedroom door, just far enough away that if I sat on the floor with my back to the wall my parents wouldn’t be able to hear – or so I thought.
All those long conversations, the hours spent planning and replanning: “OK, see you at Camden Town station at 7!”
Which triggered 15 further phone calls to corral the rest of my friends, who’d check with their parents, and then ring back, by which point the original time was all but moot: “We won’t make it for 7, see you at 7.30!” And on it went.
At the risk of sounding prematurely ancient (I’m 42), I’ve seen technologies like the iPod come and go without so much as a shrug. But the death of the landline signals a distinct social shift.
The shared telephone in the kitchen forced us into awkward conversations with each other’s parents, taught us to navigate difficult social situations, to speak in different registers.
There was the excitement and dread of the call or missing the call, the shout up the stairs from my sister, begrudgingly thrusting the phone towards me, “It’s Katie, again!” Or worse, the gleeful, “Your boyfriend’s on the phone!”