THE last payphone has been removed from the streets of the city that never sleeps in a momentous moment marking the demise of the public payphone amid the digital era.


What’s happening?

This week, the City of New York's Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DOITT) said it was the "end of an era” as they announced they were removing the last working payphone in the city where 79,000 pay phones had once found a home.


It’s gone?

Workers moved in to physically remove the phone, near Seventh Avenue and 50th Street in Midtown Manhattan, and if you are old enough to remember making calls in phone booths regularly, then this will make you feel even older - the payphone was taken straight to a museum. It will now feature in the exhibit “Analog City” at the Museum of the City of New York.


How times change…

In the space of 100 years, the payphone came - in a blaze of glory - and went. The first was installed in a bank in Connecticut in 1889 and within three years, there were 81,000 across America, with the first outdoor booth installed in 1905. Twenty years later, there were 25,000 in New York City alone and the numbers kept surging. In 1960, one million were put in place in the US, rising to around 2.5 million in 1995.


They were revolutionary?

And a lifeline for millions, opening up communication with the world with a simple coin, allowing people who did not have landlines in their own homes the chance to reach out.


And cultural icons?

Think about how many movie classics feature phone booth scenes, with Robert Redford relying on New York payphones in 1975 spy movie Three Days of the Condor, while Pennan in Aberdeenshire’s famous red phone box featured in the 1983 Bill Forsyth movie starring Burt Lancaster.



The rise of the mobile means the need to make calls in public booths is not what it was. Manhattan officials said the “last payphone” will now be replaced with a digital kiosk "boosting accessibility and connectivity across the city" and the spread of these digital kiosks were described by one city council member as "vital lifelines" for people who would not otherwise have access to the web.


In the UK?

The national network of telephone boxes began in 1920, with the traditional red phone box becoming an icon of British culture. Last year, the UK's phone regulator Ofcom said 21,000 public phone boxes remain and it would keep thousands in service as lifelines, despite a sharp fall in use. Ofcom said: "Almost 150,000 calls were made to emergency services from phone boxes in the year to May 2020, while 25,000 calls were made to Childline and 20,000 to Samaritans."