Pink Floyd at the V&A

The recent Pink Floyd exhibition held at the V&A used the iconic British phone box through-out:

 

What happened to the boxes?

I travelled in Poland about 20 years ago and went again recently. Where have all the phone boxes gone? We stayed in the countryside and then spent a few days in Krakow and saw none during this time. Here is the Main Square in Krakow in 1997(?) …

And from the same spot in 2017…

 

(What is interesting is that there was a police vehicle in the recent shot and what looks like one in the earlier shot – some things don’t change.)

What I did see in place of where I might expect to see a phone box was a stand-alone ATM…

 

 

Canadian phones still bring in the money

Payphones Still Make Millions of Dollars 

From a report on Motherboard:

Disruption-y tech companies like Uber and Twitter are a big part of “the discourse” and our daily lives, but neither of them make any profit. You know what once-groundbreaking technology doesn’t have any problems making bank year after year? That’s right, it’s payphones. Most people now have a cell phone, so you may have wondered who still uses those rusted, quarter-eating boxes. As it turns out, a lot of people do. According to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission’s 2017 monitoring report, payphones in Canada made $22 million CAD in 2016 (this figure may not account for the cost of upkeep, but the CRTC has stated in the past that payphones are “financially viable at current rates.”) That’s spread out among nearly 60,000 payphones in the country, which made roughly $300 per phone over the course of the year. That’s at least a few calls per day, each. The US numbers are similar: The FCC reports that in 2015 payphones made $286 million, which is comparable for a population ten times the size of Canada’s.

Cross-post from Slash-dot.

The Leftovers

We recently finished watching season 3 of the excellent tv series ‘The Leftovers’. There were a couple of arty shots of phone boxes, set in my home nation of Australia. I like the added satellite dish on top of the phone in the second photo.

Stories on the radio

Click here for Radio 4 stories about phone boxes.

One covers the question ‘what happens to a phone box when it dies’ and the other looks at the memories people have of UK phone boxes.

Fools: BT to scrape half UK phone boxes

Not only will phone box numbers be reduced, today’s news tell us that Big Ben (in the background) will cease to chime for 4 years while undergoing repairs.

I woke to some sad news today – BT are phasing out UK phone boxes. Well it had to happen. I was in Poland recently and saw no phone boxes and wondered if this was going to happen elsewhere.

BT makes the suggestion that phone boxes can be adopted – well for £1 I’ll do that. I’m going to email them now for the details…

See below for the details from the press –

Cross post from the BBC:

BT to scrap half of the UK’s remaining telephone boxes

BT is to scrap half of the UK’s remaining 40,000 telephone boxes and focus on the ones in locations where people are more likely to use them. In 1992 at their peak before mobile phones became popular, there were 92,000 phone boxes in the UK. Telephone boxes still handle 33,000 calls a day, but one third of kiosks are never used to make a call. BT said many phone boxes had become a burden and were expensive to repair and maintain.

“BT is committed to providing a public payphone service, but with usage declining by over 90% in the last decade, we continue to review and remove payphones which are no longer used,” a BT spokesperson told the BBC.

BT intends to scrap the 20,000 telephone boxes over the next five years. Out of the 40,000 phone booths still working, 7,000 are the traditional red phone boxes designed in 1935 to commemorate the silver jubilee of King George V.

More than half of phone boxes lose money and the number of calls is declining by more than 20% per year. The cost of maintaining telephone boxes annually is about £6m. BT is responsible for repairing damage to the kiosks, including replacing glass panes and broken receivers, as well as removing graffiti, rubbish and human waste.

It is estimated that 93% of all people in the UK now own a mobile phone, and 98% of the UK has 3G or 4G mobile internet coverage. However, phone booths are still used by children, the elderly, people who can’t afford mobile phones, and in emergencies when smartphone batteries go flat.

If there are two kiosks within 400m walking distance of a site, BT is allowed to remove one, as long as there is one left. But if the telecoms provider seeks to remove the only phone booth on the site, Ofcom rules state BT must inform the public and consult with the local authorities. The authority then has 90 days to object, which is known as a “local veto”.

“Payphone removals are carried out in strict adherence to Ofcom guidelines and, where appropriate, with the consent of local authorities. Where we receive objections from the local authority, we won’t remove the payphone,” said BT.

In areas where telephone boxes are not being used, many local communities have transformed and preserved phone booths by buying them for £1 from BT under the Adopt a Kiosk scheme. So far, more than 4,000 kiosks have been repurposed as mini-libraries and art galleries or to house defibrillation machines, information centres, shops and exhibitions.

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Cross-post from The Guardian:

BT to scrap half of UK’s remaining phone boxes after usage falls 90%

A much-loved but almost obsolete feature is set to vanish from thousands of British streets when BT presses button B to cancel calls in 20,000 phone boxes – a reference that would have to be explained to an entire digital generation which has never made a call from a public phone.

Faced with soaring maintenance costs and plummeting usage, BT plans to scrap half of the UK’s remaining public telephone boxes, many of which are now never used for their original purpose.

The phone boxes were once lifelines to the wider world at a time when many homes had no landline and the very idea of a mobile phone came from the wilder shores of science fiction. Today many are the sad and smelly last resting places of pigeons and half-eaten chicken takeaways, or worse.

Some 33,000 calls a day are still made from phone boxes, but about a third are only used once a month, and many are never used at all. Of those in more regular use, few earn enough money to cover maintenance costs.

The number of calls has been dropping by 20% a year, while the cost of cleaning, replacing broken glass panels, repairing vandalised receivers and removing graffiti and rubbish has risen steadily to about £6m a year.

“BT is committed to providing a public payphone service, but with usage declining by over 90% in the last decade, we continue to review and remove payphones which are no longer used,” a spokeswoman said.

The boxes would only be removed according to Ofcom guidelines, she said. If there is no other payphone within 400 metres, the local authority must be notified, and the box would only be removed if there were no objections.

Many of those that will survive the cull are traditional red cast iron boxes, 2,400 of which are Grade II listed buildings. The most famous design, cherished by collectors when they are decommissioned, is the K6 kiosk, created in 1935 by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott and inspired, bizarrely, by a tomb in Old St Pancras churchyard created by the Georgian architect Sir John Soane in 1816 to mark his wife’s grave.

At their peak there were 92,000 payphones across the UK, and queues in the street were a familiar sight at the busiest ones, where those impatient for their turn rapped indignantly on the glass to rebuke chatty callers.

BT is encouraging communities to reprieve some of those now condemned by paying £1 to adopt them so that they might join the 4,300 that have found new lives as tiny libraries, art centres, sites for lifesaving defibrillation equipment and, as in a particularly thrilling Archers plot line, local information points.

The cost of using a public phone box was measured out in old copper pennies for decades. T0day the minimum charge is 60p, which includes a 40p connection charge, and would be enough to pay for many calls and texts from most mobile phones.

The return of Twin Peaks

‘Person of Interest’ my have ended but ‘Twin Peaks’ made a return, bringing the surreal mind of David Lynch to the small screen again – you were expecting weird but perhaps not this weird. I don’t know if the screen shot below is an alternative universe or what (created from atomic rage??) but glad to see a phone box features:

Finale

I finally watched the finale of ‘Person of Interest‘. Of course there were a couple of important phone shots that I recorded for posterity. I’m going to miss this show…

Iconic tattoo

A friend of mine, Hope, has just got herself some new tattoos and there is one that is pretty special to this blog:

Contribution

Thanks to Shiraz for this link for the blog:

“The famous phone boxes”: a review of ‘Out of Order by David Mach