From the once highly innovative to the downright clunky, here’s a list of phone equipment that has disappeared or is on its way to extinction.
Rotary Dial Phones
Introduced nearly 100 years ago, rotary dial phones were ubiquitous in homes and businesses across the United States for decades. Hard on the fingers and painfully slow to use, they were phased out when touch-tone phones became widely available in the 1970s.
Mobile communications used to mean slipping into a public phone booth to make a quick 10-cent call. Often dirty or not working, they weren’t always reliable or safe. Fortunately, we have shifted to wireless phones, and phone booths have become almost obsolete.
Pre-dating the fax machine, this cabinet-sized piece of equipment was basically two typewriters connected via a phone line. By transferring text, it was once a useful piece of business equipment. But as fax machines and then email were introduced, the Telex became an office dinosaur that served little purpose.
Stand-Alone Answering Machines
The days of having a clunky answering machine sitting next to your phone are gone. With voicemail delivering many more features than just recording messages and with its availability on both landlines and cell phones, this outdated piece of equipment has been junked by most.
Roadside Emergency Call Boxes
Emergency call boxes that used to line highways to help stranded motorists are slowly disappearing as cell phones have become less expensive and more widely used. Hopefully, they’ll at least keep them in areas where cell reception is poor.
… And, one phone-related item that we wouldn’t mind seeing disappear.
Although most of us are now searching online for local businesses, these cumbersome books made from tremendous amounts of natural resources are still placed on our doorsteps every year. Ending up in recycling bins or cluttering our cabinets, they are no longer the “go to” source for finding a business’ phone number.
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Originally published Jun 25, 2010, updated Aug 12, 2020