Long live the landlineComment on this story
London - This week saw another casualty of the relentless march of so-called progress: the landline. Like the telephone exchange and the iconic red box before it, the ubiquitous fixed telephone also faces extinction.
According to a study, fewer young people than ever before are bothering to get one (this may also have something to do with the fact none of them can afford an actual home, but that’s a whole other column).
Instead, they prefer to rely on their smartphones.
I have an iPhone, too, of course. But while this allows me to check my emails, manage my bank account and, should the need arise, land a small exploratory device on Mars, the one thing it seems to be ill-suited to is having any sort of sane conversation with another human.
For that, I’m afraid, you need an actual telephone, one that plugs into a socket in the wall.
A device that harks back to the days, not so very long ago, when telephones didn’t exist merely so you could be tormented by PPI claim spivs, but to communicate with friends and family.
People made phone calls for work, of course; but also for pleasure. A ringing phone was exciting: who knew who was going to be on the other end of the line, what friend or foe, what delights or disasters.
Best of all, the fact the telephone was confined to the home or office meant there were times when it was perfectly acceptable not to answer it. In the loo, for example, or on a train or - and this will sound really radical - on holiday.
Now everyone expects you to pick up immediately, and if you don’t they email and text frantically, wanting to know where you are and why the hell you’re not answering.
It’s a cultural thing, too. Blondie’s 1980 hit Call Me just wouldn’t have been the same if it had been titled Text Me, would it? And that wonderful bath scene between Rock Hudson and Doris Day in the 1959 movie Pillow Talk? Impossible.
You can’t romance someone over a 3G network. There you would be, whispering sweet nothings, while the other party shouts: ‘What’s that? I can’t hear you! Speak up, it’s a bad connection...’
Not so the landline. Barring acts of God, the connection never misbehaves. Moreover, landlines don’t randomly call people from the bottom of your handbag, require 700 different types of expensive charger, regular system upgrades or get stolen by gangs of marauding teenagers.
But by far the most irritating - and ironic - thing about the cellphone is that the very thing that was supposed to make it easier for us all to keep in touch has, in fact, all but destroyed the art of conversation.
It may seem hard to believe, but before the advent of the cellphone, mankind possessed an incredible and unique gift: the power of speech.
Until really quite recently, we communicated using entire words, strung together in strange, arcane structures known as sentences.
Now you see endless couples in restaurants, supposedly on a date, staring down at their individual screens in between courses.
Or dads on the touchline, barely looking up from their CrackBerrys as they mumble vaguely encouraging messages in the general direction of their offspring.
Or idiots texting while trying to walk the dog, cross the road or drive in the fast lane.
That is why it is vitally important that the home phone be preserved for posterity.
Not only will it save you next time you’re snowed in after a three-day power cut; it’s also one of the few remaining communication devices that allow people to connect as human beings rather than illiterate avatars.
And surely that’s got to be worth something? - Daily Mail