The Not-So-Secret and Ignored Life of Pay Phones

Remember public pay phones? When was your last call? How much was it? Can you avoid the bubonic plague while using pay phones? Does anyone clean them? Gadget archeologist Anna Jane Grossman has the same questions.


I remember the last time I used a pay phone. It was one of those winter once-upon-a-times, in Madrid, when I was a teenager. I remember having to wait in line to call my parents, trying not to give away my drunkenness after a night out. It sounded like crap. It was full of crap. And my mom gave me crap for telling her that I was arriving home late once again.

I can't even remember how much the call was, but I remember that the seven by seven-foot guy behind me asked me for a coin. His bloody—as in full of blood—Iron Maiden t-shirt and black eye were good arguments. I gave him two coins. I'm pretty sure a third hand came out of his ZZ Top beard to grab them.


Obsolete author and Giz collaborator Anna Jane Grossman went to the Third Avenue, in New York, to check out the life of the metal animals that don't give a damn about your iPhone. She did this great video with filmmaker Dan Scofield. Enjoy it. [Obsolete and JustaGuyWhoKnows]

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I'm sure one day pay phones will be completely obsolete, but at least in California they will be around for a while. Telecoms here are required to keep a certain amount of pay phones for emergency purposes, you know earthquakes and the like. Though the last time i used one was when I could not get signal at LAX about 5 years ago. Seems to be airports are where payphones are still a life saver. #payphone