landline in 2024The telephone landline is apparently a thing of the past. Its demise became evident when the AT&T cellular network had a meltdown this past week, leading to howls of protest. One businessperson reported that, without her cell phone, she could not take orders for lunch deliveries and had to shut down for the day. It’s amazing how many people could not function without a cell phone and yet—I managed to live most of my life without one.

I was one of the customers affected, but simply switched to wi-fi calling and carried on despite still having a landline. I never use it. When we first moved to the country, our telephone cooperative required us to have one to get internet service. We’ve had it ever since.

I could do without it, but my husband can’t. But, in case a hurricane wipes out all cellular infrastructure, we do have a way to ask for help.


My earliest landline memories were having a party line. Basically, to save money, my parents shared a line with neighbors. Privacy was non-existent and those on your loop could pick up the phone and listen in. Then, too, some people were on the phone for long periods of time, leaving you frustrated and, at times, breaking in to ask the offending party to get off the phone.

In later years, we had a private line—but only one. As teenagers, my brother and I were constantly bickering over the timing of calls and sharing the line. How could you carry on a teen romance without it?

Fast forward. My daughters, as teens, had the same fight and were livid because I refused to pay for a second landline to accommodate their need to communicate. I paid the price, though. Some boys would call in the middle of the night, waking me from a dead sleep.

We did, however, adapt another dying technology to communicate, the pager, as I worked and was frequently out of the office.

Note: The pager is still used by public safety and healthcare professionals because its network is more reliable than the cellular one.

Recall the long cords? How could you get things done and talk at the same time without them? I remember my first landline with a wireless phone! How freeing!


The National Center for Health Statistics estimates about 73% of American adults in 2022 lived in households where there were only wireless phones and no landlines.  Another 25% were in households with both. Amazingly just over 1% had only landlines.

The landline decline has been rapid. In early 2003, fewer than 3% of adults lived in wireless-only households while at least 95% lived in homes with landlines.

Along with the landline decline, pay phones are nearly nonexistent. As a teen, I was urged to put a dime in my shoe in case something went wrong on a date so I could make a call. Did you know that New York City, at one point, had 30,000 pay phones and removed its last one in 2022?


Until cellular technology became available at an affordable prie, we only called long distance when there was an emergency because it was expensive. Letter writing (another lost art) took its place. Communication with those who lived outside of our calling zone was sparce. I remember talking to my father who lived out of state once or twice a month, at most.

Was not being able to communicate instantly good or bad? We could not easily reach out for help and had to develop self-reliance. In the old days, I would drive from Houston to Dallas with no way of getting help if something went wrong. Today the thought of a long trip without a cell terrifies me.

What are your thoughts?


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