For my 13th birthday, my mom got me my own phone line. This was a big deal, in the 1980s, when most kids, even kids far more well-off than my family, didn’t have their own phones, but my mom, possibly remembering her own adolescence, wanted to make sure she got in at least a few minutes of her own on the main household line; she admitted this was a gift for her as well as me. My social life may not have been quite what she envisioned, but I made up with intensity for what I lacked in quantity. It turns out a phone in your bedroom is as useful for, say, sitting up until 2 a.m. plotting Star Wars and Battle of the Planets fanfic with a few close friends as it is for juggling an active social calendar.
Anyway, my phone looked like this:
I loved that thing, and I felt so cool talking on it, even as I struggled to balance the curved handset on my shoulder as I talked.
It’s a thing worth remembering about the past: the things that will one day feel quaint and dated never feel that way at the time, because we don’t yet really know what they aren’t; we only know what they are. The country was just moving away from standard-issue rotary phones that AT&T only rented to customers. That I actually owned this phone was, in itself, a huge deal. And push-buttons, not a dial! (Even though you could hear the phone pulse through the numbers when you pushed those buttons, which were still largely a surface thing.) And phones that could come in any shape I wanted, no matter how ridiculous! Not that my phone seemed ridiculous, of course. Clunkiness and size weren’t issues; phones were just phone-sized, after all.
My doughnut phone followed me to college, where it wasn’t quite as cool anymore but I only half-knew it. (I still thought my purple corduroys and neon pink sweatshirt were pretty awesome, too.) And then AT&T’s monopoly was broken, and phones got cheap and could be bought anywhere, not just from special AT&T approved phone stores. Somewhere along the way my doughnut phone gave way to a succession of smaller, cheaper phones, first corded, then cordless. I think I last saw my doughnut phone somewhere in a closet of childhood toys and games in my mom’s house, but I’m really not sure.
Eventually we added cell service to our landline (eventually landline became a term that actually made sense), first for me (initially as a dedicated business phone), then for lnhammer) as well. By then, it was as normal to have your own phone as it was to have your own email account.
A few weeks ago, we checked our landline messages, and realized they went back two months, and that it didn’t even matter: none of them were at all time sensitive, because no one who really needed to reach us even used our landline anymore.
So today, we cancelled our landline entirely. (If you’re one of the few people who even knows our landline number, there should be a recording there with my cell number for the next month or so.)
Meanwhile, doughnut phones seem to be going from $45-65 on ebay and etsy. Which is, IIRC, about what we paid for mine in the first place. 🙂