Bad News for Clark Kent: Why the Phone Booth is Going Extinct
The Man of Steel may very well have to find a new means of making his super transformation. Take a minute to think it over, when did you last actually use a phone booth? Phone booths used to be one of the most important ways for the public to contact people in emergencies. Unfortunately, the phone booth is going extinct and this can have ramifications on those that depended on them.
William Gray made the first phone booth in 1889. It was used in a bank in Connecticut. Originally the system let you pay after making a call, but this was changed in 1902 to a prepay system with coins that is still used in the tiny number of phone booths that are still around.
So What’s Happening to the Booth?
The short answer is that technology is making them unnecessary in the minds of the population. Everyone has a cellphone these days, and the number of ways to communicate when you’re out and about on the road are increasing. Even those who don’t have cellphone service will often have a mobile computing device of some sort, and then all they need is WiFi in order to connect with others. As a result, phone booths are dropping out of the world. As an example, there are only four outdoor phone booths left in Manhattan, which used to have one on every street corner.
A Serious Problem
One serious problem is the fact that older people who are used to relying on phone booths since that was the way things were when they were growing up can’t actually do this anymore. This is a problem because there are a lot of Americans, for example, who live in cities or other areas that still don’t have effective cell service, and who rely on payphones for their communications.
The Future of Phone booths as Hotspots
In order to try and combat this problem to some degree but also keep up with the times, many cities are converting phone booths to Wi-Fi hotspots. In the beginning, these cities like ones in New York and the U.K. will try to keep normal payphone operation, and just add a Wi-Fi hotspot that gives free Wi-Fi access to the public. In this way, the public might see them as useful enough to let the phones stay for a while longer, but the end may be inevitable.
Other countries are taking a different approach to updating phone booths. For example, in Madrid they are converting phone booths into electric car charging stations. Initially, about 30
phone booths will be converted into stations for giving more power to a growing number of electric cars in the country. This seemed like a rational thing to do for officials in Madrid since phone booths are already wired for electricity, and they are stationed along the side of the road, which are the two basic requirements for electric filling stations. So it seems that phone booths may be a thing of the past and their new lives as Wi-Fi hotspots, charging stations and whatever comes next may be the future.