Category Archives: News

New York City removes the last payphone from service

I have just read some saddening news. Not sad on the grand scale of what’s happening in the world at the moment but sad in that it brings to an end a long tradition in which I have an interesst. The following is cross-post from the CNBC website on 23rd May 2022:

It’s the end of an era: New York City removed its last public payphone on Monday.

The boxy enclosures were once an iconic symbol across the city. But the rise of cellphones made the booths obsolete.

The effort to replace public pay telephones across the city kicked off in 2014 when the de Blasio administration solicited proposals to reimagine the offering, the city’s Office of Technology and Innovation said in a news release.

Officials selected CityBridge to develop and operate LinkNYC kiosks, which offer services such as free phone calls, Wi-Fi and device charging. The city began removing street payphones in 2015 to replace them with the LinkNYC kiosks.

There are nearly 2,000 kiosks across the city, according to a map from LinkNYC.

“Just like we transitioned from the horse and buggy to the automobile and from the automobile to the airplane, the digital evolution has progressed from payphones to high-speed Wi-Fi kiosks to meet the demands of our rapidly changing daily communications needs,” Commissioner Matthew Fraser said in the release.

The last public pay telephone will be displayed at the Museum of the City of New York as part of an exhibit looking back at life in the city before computers.

In the news

Just a screenshot from a news article from a couple of months ago when storms were about:

Phone box design keeps on inspiring

Furniture brand Kettal has designed a series of booths, called Phonebooth, that can be inserted into office interiors to create a sense of privacy in busy working environments.

Courtesy https://www.dezeen.com/

For more details go to https://www.dezeen.com/2022/03/25/phonebooth-meeting-pods-kettal-showroom/

Office phone boxes may be the new trend

The boxes themselves are a little too simplistic in style for me but I love the idea of bringing the traditional functionality inside. Especially good for open plan offices when you need some privacy. In these pandemic days they’d need to be cleaned regularly though.

Cross post from de zeen

Soho office phone booth by Meavo

Dezeen Showroom: booth and pod brand Meavo aimed to combine high-quality construction with an affordable price tag in its Soho office phone booth, which provides privacy in the workplace.

Soho is a sound-dampening booth that offers acoustic and visual privacy for one person at a time.

It is designed to fit with the interior style or colour scheme of any office and can be customised in any colour at no additional cost.

The Soho office phone booth includes a small worktop, LED lighting, and ventilation to freshen the air. It can also be configured with power sockets, USB charging ports, wireless charging and HDMI ports.

To reduce environmental impact, Meavo uses recycled plastic bottles for Soho’s acoustic felt lining, with each phone booth containing over 800 bottles.

For every booth sold, the company also promises to plant 50 trees and provide two solar lamps to families in Zambia.

Thousands of UK phone boxes to be protected from closure

BT to be banned from scrapping payphones in areas with poor mobile coverage or high accident rates

Cross-post from The Guardian

About 5,000 public phone boxes around the UK will be protected from closure in areas of high accident rates or poor mobile signals, under plans drawn up by Ofcom, the regulator.

The communications watchdog said it would ban BT from scrapping payphones in areas where they were still needed, namely locations with poor mobile coverage, high accident or suicide rates, or higher-than-average use. There are about 21,000 call boxes across the country.

For several years, BT has been decommissioning payphones that are deemed to be no longer needed. Phone box use has plummeted as 96% of UK adults own a mobile phone. However, local organisations can buy a red phone box for £1 and use it for something else. More than 6,000 have been converted to other uses, such as community libraries, or to house public defibrillators.

Ofcom said it had received a call on Tuesday from a mountain rescue team in the Lake District that was keen for its local phone box, earmarked for closure by BT, to be saved.

Selina Chadha, the Ofcom director of connectivity, said: “Some of the call boxes we plan to protect are used to make relatively low numbers of calls. But if one of those calls is from a distressed child, an accident victim or someone contemplating suicide, that public phone line can be a lifeline at a time of great need.

“We also want to make sure that people without mobile coverage, often in rural areas, can still make calls. At the same time, we’re planning to support the rollout of new phone boxes with free wifi and charging.”

About 5m calls were made from phone boxes in the year to May 2020, including almost 150,000 to emergency services, while 25,000 were made to ChildLine and 20,000 to Samaritans. However, call volumes from payphones have fallen from about 800m minutes in 2002 to 7m in 2020.

Under the plans, BT and Kcom, which operates Hull’s unique cream phone boxes, must install batteries in some payphones so they can be used during a power cut.

A BT spokesperson said: BT takes its regulatory obligations seriously in providing a public phone box service. Any phone box removals are carried out in strict adherence to Ofcom guidelines and, where appropriate, with the consent of local authorities.

“We also know many communities love their red kiosks and, to date, more than 6,500 have been adopted across the UK via our continuing Adopt a Kiosk scheme – turning them into lifesaving defibrillator units, mini libraries, and many other new uses. BT looks forward to working constructively with Ofcom throughout the consultation process to ensure the universal service obligation meets the needs of the public today.”https://www.theguardian.com/email/form/plaintone/business-todaySign up to the daily Business Today email or follow Guardian Business on Twitter at @BusinessDesk

Under Ofcom’s stronger rules, a phone box will be protected from removal if one of four criteria apply: its location is not covered by all four main mobile networks; it is located at an accident or suicide hotspot; more than 52 calls have been made from it over the past 12 months; or exceptional circumstances mean there is a need for a public call box.

Ofcom said BT and Kcom could propose to remove phone boxes that did not fall within these criteria, but would need to formally consult local communities before any action was taken.

Julia KolleweTue 9 Nov 2021

EV charging points to be as ‘iconic’ as red phone boxes

Story by Ioanna Lykiardopoulou

The British Department for Transport (DfT) plans to make EV charging points as iconic as the red phone boxes designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott back in 1926, ‘The Telegraph’ reports. 

The DfT is offering a £200,000 ($283,400) contract to a design team that can develop an “iconic, functional public electric vehicle charge point.” 

The government believes that, by making charging points more appealing to the eye, it can accelerate the expansion of the country’s charging network and, ultimately, the transition to EVs.

As a matter of fact, a 2020 survey conducted by Seat found that a third of UK drivers consider EV charging points as “eyesores.” Half of the survey respondents (49%) said that they didn’t want chargers installed on their street.

Conservative MP and former transport minister Sir John Hayes explained that the new design project would help remedy the aesthetic factor. 

He noted that the new design plan should reach the standards set by Gilbert Scott and that it should result into something immediately identifiable as another piece of emblematic British street furniture.

Admittedly, the DfT is clearly thinking out of the box to incentivize EV adoption – after all, who wouldn’t like a charger that could be as cool as the red phone booth? I can already imagine tourists lining up for a photo.

But if we dig a bit deeper, there’s a sadness to this initiative as well. It shows that there’s still a long way to go before the public accepts EVs as part of everyday life. As far as I know, no effort has ever been made to beautify gas stations, and, boy, do they look ugly.

Source : https://thenextweb.com/news/uk-wants-ev-charging-points-as-iconic-as-red-phone-boxes

Another makeover

Not sure how we missed this Christmas episode…

Adopt a Box

Not a new idea but nice to hear about how communities are keeping an icon relevant…

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/shortcuts/2021/mar/15/yours-for-one-pound-what-would-you-do-with-a-traditional-red-phone-box

BT is putting 4,000 phone boxes up for adoption. Many have already been turned into libraries, defibrillator stations, even tiny art galleries.

Name: Red telephone boxes.

Age: Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s original K2 design dates from 1924, but his smaller K6, from 1936, is the the more widespread.

Appearance: Iconic.

Purpose: Depends.

You mean it depends on the nature of the telephone call you wish to place? Of course not – nobody uses phone boxes to make calls any more.

Why not? Because everybody has a mobile now. Only about 7,000 traditional red phone boxes across the UK even work, but more than half lose money and calls continue to decline by 20% a year.

What other purpose can an obsolete phone box serve? A lot of them get turned into libraries.

Aren’t they a bit small for that? They’re very small libraries – basically community hubs where books can be donated and exchanged.

I suppose it’s better than no library at all. Precisely. When mobile library funding was cut for Westbury-sub-Mendip, Somerset, the parish council bought the local phone box and slung up some shelves.

Bought it from where? From BT. Since 2008, its Adopt a Kiosk scheme has allowed communities to purchase its redundant phone boxes for £1.

Is the scheme popular? Yes. So far 6,600 phone boxes have been adopted, and BT just announced another 4,000 are to be made available.

That’s a lot of tiny libraries. They’re not all full of books. Some of the kiosks were turned into information centres or mini-museums. In Cheltenham, nine disused boxes have been transformed into single-occupancy art galleries.

What a lovely idea. If there’s a downside to cutting vital community services to the point where they can fit inside phone boxes, I can’t see it. Well, some of the library boxes have had to be temporarily shut because of Covid.

I suppose there may be a risk there. And someone has been leaving erotic fiction in the phone box in Hurstbourne Tarrant, Hampshire.

Wind phones

In 2019 I posted a story about the Japanese wind phone – you know I love to bring to this blog, the weird and wonderful ways that phone boxes exist in our world. This beautiful idea appears to be catching on . Here is a story from the USA. (I would love to set this off where I live but I’m afraid the booth would just be vandalised.)

Marshall phone carves out space for spirituality and grief

Woodfin resident Aaron Kreizman uses the Marshall wind phone to connect with a loved one. Photo by Laura Hackett.

Just off state Highway 213 in Marshall, a 1940s rotary phone sits inside a white, glass-paned phone booth, overlooking a garden and, in the distance, a ridgeline. While not physically connected to any network, the phone facilitates spiritual connections. Here, visitors can pick up the handset, “call” their lost loved ones and release whatever words they wish to communicate into the wind.

As Western North Carolina continues to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic, the wind phone’s creator, Susan Vetrone, hopes the space will offer respite and a glimmer of hope to anyone struggling with the complex emotions that accompany loss.

“People are carrying around a lot of grief,” explains Vetrone, a Marshall resident who conceptualized the project this June and oversaw the booth’s installation in October. “It’s hard to lose people you love. … I hope this helps to relieve some of that angst.”

The concept for the Marshall wind phone, says Vetrone, is based on the original “phone of the wind” in Otsuchi, Japan, created by garden designer Itaru Sasaki in 2010. Sasaki initially built the phone to cope with his grief over his dead cousin. But after a tsunami and its aftermath killed 20,000 members of his community the following year, Sasaki opened the site to the public. In the subsequent three years, the booth became a community cornerstone, receiving over 10,000 visitors.

Vetrone first heard the story of the wind phone as she was mourning her mother’s battle (and eventual passing) with Parkinson’s and dementia. “It really moved me,” she recalls. “I immediately started seeking out a way to make it happen here. I wanted it to mirror — almost exactly if it could — the Japanese phone booth that brought so many people comfort.” 

Replicating the style of the original wind phone wasn’t easy. Vetrone had to sift through many red, shiny “UK- style” booths before eventually tracking down a plain wooden one, which she then painted white. “We wanted the feeling of lightness and spirituality,” she explains.

And to evoke traditional Japanese architecture, Vetrone commissioned local sculptor Steve Reed to create the booth’s ornate copper roof. She also weatherized the structure and installed solar lights inside the booth so visitors could make calls after dark.

Neighbor Sherrye Perry, who has lost both of her parents and visits the wind phone often, appreciates that it gives her the space to “say what you need to say.”

“It reminds me that there are all different ways and resources and paths to communicate with — at least in my mind — my creator and my ancestors,” Perry adds. “That we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. I can’t see them, but you can feel them. And they see me, and I feel uplifted by knowing that.”

How to get there

The wind phone is open to the public at 386 Madison Heights in Marshall, about a 25-minute drive from downtown Asheville.

From Asheville, take Interstate 240 to Interstate 26 west. At Exit 19A, take U.S. Highway 25/70 north toward Marshall. Turn right on State Road 213. After 2 miles, turn left on Madison Heights Drive. The parking lot is on the right.

Source: https://mountainx.com/living/marshall-phone-carves-out-space-for-spirituality-and-grief/

The Japanese – always something new

This I did not expect…

(I had to grab screen shots before getting an intrusive pop up screen, so apologies for the presentation.)

Source: https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2021/01/14/national/crime-legal/goldfish-phone-booth/
Source: Private Eye, Feb 2021