Transcript for Young people's views and experiences of telephone kiosks
Narrator:

Hello? Hello?

Can you imagine a time when mobile phones didn’t exist and most people didn’t even have a telephone in their home?

Audio:

I’d miss being able to talk to someone from long way… from different places, that I can’t get to.

Narrator:

For over a hundred years, from the 1880s until the late 20th century, public pay phones were the only way many people had access to a telephone. And these phones were very different to the ones with push-button keypads that we use today.

When telephone kiosks first came into use phone calls had to go through an operator who would connect you to the person you wanted to speak to. As time went by you could dial the number you wanted, yourself. But you always had to remember to have the right money with you, as early payphones did not give change like modern ones do. To make matters even more complicated calls to different places would cost different amounts - and the more expensive the call the more coins you’d need.

I wonder how many coins you’d need for these calls?

Audio:

I would like to telephone Barack Obama.

I’d like to telephone John Terry, because he’s a good football player and he’s the captain of a team which I support.

Narrator:

This call would be a little hard to arrange:

Audio:

I would like to telephone Dmitry Mendelay, I think it is, because he came up with the periodic table and then guessed two of the elements like without even knowing anything about ‘em…

Narrator:

You’d need more than a few coins to get through to him – Dmitri Mendeleev died over a hundred years ago!

Narrator:

Children in cities, towns, and in villages, took it for granted there’d be a telephone box nearby – you’d find one in all sorts of places. And when you made a call from a phone box the person you were speaking to couldn’t tell where you were ringing from. The number wouldn’t come up on a screen like it does on a mobile phone.

Audio:

You could pretend to be someone else…

Narrator:

These young people use the phone for all sorts of reasons

Audio:

I call my mum and dad. …

…if you haven’t seen someone for ages it’s nice to hear their voice.

I call my friends…

Narrator:

Before the age of mobile phones and email many young people relied on the public telephone kiosk to organise their social lives. But woe betide anyone who hogged a precious telephone booth for too long – queues would form, and conversation would be cut short by a rap on the door or an angry face glaring in through the glass.

Occasionally a village phone box was decked out to look like a front room – locals put carpet on the floor and flowers on the shelf. But not all phone boxes were as homely as this. Vandals smashed the glass or tried to rip out the phones and their moneyboxes. This has been a problem with telephone boxes ever since their earliest days. And if you use a phone box today, even if it hasn’t been vandalised, sometimes the smell inside can be enough to keep your call short and to the point…

You might have some thoughts on how to improve the comfort and design of phone boxes. Here are a couple of ideas to consider:

Audio:

My fantasy phonebox would be …red with black stripes and it’d have, like,… a fog light with a horn on it as well. …

It would have a fluffy pink sofa in it yeah, so you could sit down with a cup of coffee…

Narrator:

Not all telephone booths were standard kiosks. From as early on as 1912 there were roadside phone booths for members of the RAC and the AA to ring for help when their cars broke down. And in the days before personal radios and mobile phones there were police boxes – call points that allowed police on patrol to keep in touch with their local station. Though they were taken out of use in the late 1960s these large dark blue kiosks continue to find fame as the exterior of the Tardis in Dr Who.

The red kiosks are also popular with private collectors and can be found in locations from Russia to the United States, where they have been used for anything from shower cubicles to drinks cabinets. Although many of the originals have been removed from our streets there are still around 13,000 traditional red phone boxes of various types around the country today. They still appeal to people trying to break a world record! Do you know how many people can fit in a phone booth? The current record was set in Northern Ireland in 2003 – and the number of people crammed inside? A mind-boggling FOURTEEN! Oi! Ouch! Move over, you lot…..!

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