Hanging on the Telephone


Are landlines for Luddites?

Back in 1779 a young man called Ned Ludd smashed up two stocking frames as a protest against all the new-fangled industrial machinery, like the spinning jenny and the power looms that were going to do him and his fellow artisans out of work. The Industrial Revolution swept on apace and Ned is remembered now only for his King Canute stand against the inevitability of progress. That said, the word ‘Luddite’ has gone into common parlance as a lasting memorial to those who followed him and tried to hold back change. At one point more British soldiers were fighting the Luddites that were engaged in holding back Napoleon. At times of radical and rapid social metamorphism, we all of us tend to feel a bit Luddite and to hold onto what we know and love. It is only human nature. With the escalation in the ownership of cellular phones, the question now is, do we really need a home phone anymore?

Home is where the heart is

There is something very comforting and reassuring about a home phone number. The people that know this number and they may have known it for many years, are the stalwarts of society. The teachers from your children’s schools, the local doctor, dentist and deliverymen. Your mum. Your long-lost cousin from New Zealand. The lady who calls once a year to ask if you will help with the church flowers. The one friend you still have who does not own a mobile. The window cleaner. The vet. Indubitably, all of the above could be re-trained to find you on your (less memorable) cell phone number, but it would be the end of an era, wouldn’t it? Is it really worth the line rental for a phone you may rarely use?

Emergency backup

Well, yes. Because apart from the fact that you need a telephone line into the house to acquire internet service, it is also pretty imperative to maintain a landline in the event of anything drastic happening. Mobiles are notorious for running out of power or being left on silent and this is no good to you if you suddenly need to ring 999. As your home phone is linked to your address it also makes it easier to find you. Home phones tend to be dotted about the house in easy to find places, which could effectively be life saving in the event of a bad fall or an injury. Also, they do not need to be re-charged, so they are consistently reliable as a link to the outside world. In times of terrible events, such as the horror that was 9/11, the demands on the mobile systems cause them to crash. If you need help fast, for whatever reason, you need a landline.

Embrace the retro

While some home phones now try to emulate the sleek good looks and digital capabilities of their roaming smartphone cousins, there is a new wave of telephone styles for the home which accepts the static and solidly reassuring nature of them and reintroduces the old Bakelite models. These squat and heavy objects have a nostalgic aesthetic with their numerical dials, curly cords and hefty receivers. As design classics, they are a welcome sight back on the ‘telephone table’.