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back to article New York invites designers to invent Future of Phone Booths

The Mayor of New York has kicked off a competition for those with ideas on the future of the city's 11,000 phone boxes, with a view to deploying something new when the existing contract runs out in 2014. The Mayor is looking for something interesting, and something which will help New Yorkers communicate, especially in an …

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They already used this joke in the late 70s Superman movie!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HN7OBEd5hRM

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Meh

Does anyone use these germ infested urine sprayed phone booths anymore........... To make a call?

Or am I mistaken and thinking of our good old phone boxes in the UK?

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WTF?

mmm

But urine has antibacterial properties.....

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Re: mmm

But urine has antibacterial properties.....

.. but not deodorising ones :(

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Phone booth?

I don't think I've used one of those since roughly 1988ish.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Phone booth?

Goes to show that you are not selling or buying dope I guess.

Though even there pay-as-you go disposable mobile phones have replaced 'em.

At the current level (and rising) of cellphone penetration fixed infra just for voice is a total oxymoron. In a year or so time the same will be valid for any fixed infra just for public information so I really do not see a killer app that can save the phone booth. The all-singing-dancing super-duper touchscreen job in a world where everyone and his dog has a slate is as dead as the 60-es post office red box with a rotary phone inside.

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@AC 07:19 (was: Re: Phone booth?)

What's wrong with rotary dial telephones? I have a 1950s Model 500 Western Electric at my elbow as I type ... It still works perfectly. Why try to fix what ain't broke?

No, I'm not into "recreational" drugs. Not enough hours in the day as it is ...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Phone booth?

Can't remember the last time I saw one, let alone used one.

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FAIL

Re: AC 07:19 Phone booth?

At the current level (and rising) of cellphone penetration fixed infra just for voice is a total oxymoron. In a year or so time the same will be valid for any fixed infra just for public information so I really do not see a killer app that can save the phone booth.

Missed this bit: " especially in an emergency when the cellular infrastructure might not be up to scratch. " ?

When everyone and their dog is phoning and texting and whatsapping and whatnoting their great-aunt Agatha that their hamster has been left unharmed by the latest zombie attack, causing the mobile networks to go titsup, one may find it's beneficial to have some alternate communication method available

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Re: AC 07:19 Phone booth?

If the GSM infrastructure is working-but-clogged, as in your scenario, and you need to call the emergency services, you dial 112. It will break into a cell owned by *any* network, and it will kick off a non-emergency call if necessary to make room for your call.

And in the Zombie Apocalypse, most people will be concentrating on running away rather than phoning or texting anyone. The only non-runners will be the cheerleaders with chainsaws, duh.

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Facepalm

@Jake - Re: @AC 07:19 (was: Phone booth?)

Jake wrote :- "I have a 1950s Model 500 Western Electric at my elbow as I type ... It still works perfectly. Why try to fix what ain't broke?"

Assuming that you are not joking :-

1) It is slow dialing.

2) It uses a pulse signal to dial whereas modern phones use a tone signal. I am amazed that your exchange still recognises and reacts to a pulse signal. If so, it must be maintaining the facility alongside the tone system, like they used to broadcast 405 B&W line TV alongside 625 for many years in the analogue days for the benefit of the 0.5% of old geezers who were still using the first TV set they ever bought. Waste of resources.

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@Nuke: (was: Re: @Jake - @AC 07:19 (was: Phone booth?))

Slow? I can dial a number using the WE faster from my desk than I can pulling my cell from my pocket and making the same call. Dial-tone on a land-line is "right-now", cell service not so much.

Pulse is not a waste of resources. Quite the contrary, in fact.

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Boffin

@jake - "What's wrong with rotary dial telephones?"

Please press 1 for the answer to your question...

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Re: @jake - "What's wrong with rotary dial telephones?"

I have a GPO 746 plugged into a Digium TDM410P in a box running Asterisk 1.8 with Dahdi 2.4.

My own dialplan apps respond absolutely fine to pulse dialling (though I purposely didn't use the star or comment mark in any of them.) I have to confess I was a little surprised by this.

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Re: @jake - "What's wrong with rotary dial telephones?"

Many, though not all, input response systems include voice response systems. "Please press or say 'one' for.... "

But, they have to be well thought out to obviate the need to press "#" when finished.

Otoh, frustrated or malicious people may enjoy the sound of the rotary dialer being accelerated back to the home position. I used to (not maliciously, but neurologically, I suppose), but felt guilty that I might have prematurely aged some phones, hehehe.

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Re: @Nuke: (was: @Jake - @AC 07:19 (was: Phone booth?))

Jake wrote : "Dial-tone on a land-line is "right-now", cell service not so much."

I use a land line on my desk too, not a fan of cell phones myself, but your 1950 phone would surely be pulse dialling, not tone, assuming it has not had modern electronics put in. You will still need to wait for that rotor to trundle back to its stop for each digit you dial in. Ironically, 999 used the second longest trip of all, just when you would want it fast.

The other thing, a 1950's phone might well have a carbon granule microphone in the mouthpiece. The sound quality for your listeners would then be terrible, with crackle and hiss. You may not be aware of this at your end.

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Re: @jake - "What's wrong with rotary dial telephones?"

Please press 1 for the answer to your question...

Actually, more and more lately, I'm coming across menu-driven help-line systems with the option for the user to simply say "one", "two", or "operator".

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Thumb Up

Re: @Nuke: (was: @Jake - @AC 07:19 (was: Phone booth?))

"Ironically, 999 used the second longest trip of all, just when you would want it fast."

Back in the 1970s, when I was a lad, rotary-dial phones were commonplace, and our family emigrated from England to Australia, one of the things that really bugged me as a 7 year old was why they made the emergency numbers the longest ones to dial.

This came up because Mum and Dad had taught my sister and I how to call for emergency and what to say if they weren't home. So Dad had taught me in England to dial 999 and to say my name, address and what was wrong.

Australia's is even worse - 000 is the emergency number here. So when we'd arrived here and Dad explained that the emergency number was now 000, I asked him, "Dad, if I have to ring these numbers fast because I'm in trouble, why do they make them the longest numbers to dial? Shouldn't they make it 111 so you can ring it faster?"

Dad, of course, didn't know. He guessed it was to stop people from dialling it by accident, but that didn't make sense to me, since dialling 111 on a rotary phone was just as deliberate an act as dialling 000, and not something you were likely to do "by accident."

These days with keypads everywhere of course it no longer matters, but I never did find out the answer!

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Re: @Nuke: (was: @Jake - @AC 07:19 (was: Phone booth?))

Bare wires tapping together in the wind might end up inadvertently dialling "111", was the official reason given.

It's easy to find the 9 in the dark if you have to, by putting two fingers in the "9" and "0" holes (the 0 being nearest the finger stop and so easy to find). Also, "9" was often used as a local dialling code to reach one exchange from another, bypassing GRACE; using "999" for emergency services reduced the opportunity to make a local-rate call across the country by routing the call through several exchanges.

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@Steven Roper: Several emergency numbers were considered for Australia, 000 was chosen for multiple reasons. The first being that it's hard to dial by accident (same reason as 999) and the second was that in far flung regional areas that had very basic automatic exchanges, 0 was the auto trunk access number so dialling it 3 times in a row would at the very least get you a Central Office operator. 111 was no good as phone and exchange equipment was all mechnical, a poorly lubricated phone dial or faulty exchange relay could lead to accidentally dialling emergency whenever you dialled any number beginning with 3 or higher, this is because the slow travel of the dial would cause the exchange to recognise the make-breaks as individual digits i.e. 3 ones instead of 1 three. New Zealand is slightly odd in that they chose 111 for the reasons above, the difference being that their dials are numbered 1-9 instead of 9-1.

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Anonymous Coward

People still need to pee though.

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Anonymous Coward

What is he smoking

Isn't the USA and especially NYC a place where everyone is online all the time? Who needs payphones unless thay are doing something illegal.. Oh wait a minute

Hey Mr Mayor, just get rid of all payphones. That way the drug dealers will have to use mobile phones.

Then ban 'burner' phones and insist on Facial Recogintion in every phone so that 'The Man' can verify that you are the assigned person to that device and thus allowed to make the call which will be actively monitored for your 'safety and security'.

so being serious, this is a total waste of time. The Mayor should be spending more time sorting out Staten Island and getting it working again rather than pissing in the wind with this stuff. I have a relative who lives on Staten Island, or rather did until his house was demolished by Sandy. Now his insurance company is saying that he is not covered in anyway shape or form. Even the contents are uninsured. That is what the Mayor should be sorting out.

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Anonymous Coward

On a serious note..

There is still (a) need for a secondary communications network in case of emergency (plenty of people have pointed that out), it gives (b) opportunities to hook up other infrastructure such as WiFi and whatever detectors deemed needed and (c) you're forgetting that there is a (growing) segment that cannot afford a phone..

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Re: On a serious note..

"cannot afford a phone.."

Have you seen the cost of a pay-phone call?

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Re: On a serious note.. -costs

Its been so long I had to look it up.

In the UK, putting coins in the slot, its 60p minimum and national and local calls are charged at 60p for the first 30 minutes, then 10p for each 15 minutes ("or portion thereof") after.

That's from the BT website, I seem to recall putting more than 60p in for a five minute call in the old days.

but for credit/debit cards its 20p per minute with a minimum fee of £1.20 ouch!

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Re: On a serious note.. -costs

60p for 30 minutes isn't so bad, but as a minimum charge? Madness.

Last time I used a payphone, I'm sure it was 10p.

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Anonymous Coward

Last time I tried to use a pay phone...

... in the UK it had 2 buttons - A and B. Never could figure out what they were for :-)

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Re: Last time I tried to use a pay phone...

A for Answered and B for (your 10p) Back.

There were actually private payphones which had a button A (but no button B; coin return was effected by replacing the receiver) a few years ago.

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Happy

Re: Last time I tried to use a pay phone...

10p?

The "Button A/Button B" phones were four old pence. You put the 4d in, and dailed your call. If they answered, you'd press button A to be connected. If they didn't, you pressed button B and got your money back.

Decimalization and new phones came in together, with coin boxes which took 2p and 10p coins. You'd make the call, the other side would answer and you'd nearly break your thumb trying to shove the coin into the box before the "bip-bip-bip-bip-bip" stopped...

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Re: Last time I tried to use a pay phone...

There were definitely some button A / B payphones which took decimal coins, in non-STD areas.

Manual exchanges lingered on a long time after decimalisation .....

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Forget Superman

How will Bill and Ted get about now?

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Re: Forget Superman

Bogus, heinous, most non-triumphant.....

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Holmes

In other news

NYC mayor Bloomberg also invited people to submit new designs for buggy whips. Because the same EMP that triggers the zombie apocalypse and kills cell networks will kill all the cars too.

Picture 7M New Yorkers all trying to get at the 11,000 phone booths at the same time.

And somehow whatever wipes out the cell phone network – like the power going out – won't render wireless hotspots , or whatever else they put in these booths, useless?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: In other news

The EMP pulse won't render the old rotary dial phone (as long as it didn't use DTMF) useless.

Bring back the Strouger Exchanges I say.

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Boffin

Re: In other news

But how many redesigned phone booths will have old rotary dial phones?

Or old pulse dial switching in the CO?

I'm guessing the answer to both is a big fat goose egg.

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Anonymous Coward

I don't get why all phone booths are not turned into wifi-access points...

since we need as many as possible of them to spread the love of wifi ;-)

(BT has done this with many, but not enough)

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Anonymous Coward

I like our uk red phone boxes, when its windy its the perfect place to stand and make a call on my mobile...

But actually using the phone? not much need unless I am in another country without a local sim

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Just get rid of them and replace each one with a tree

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Coat

Superman Alley trvia

There aren't any alleys in New York - if you see an alley in a movie it's because it was filmed in Toronto or Vancouver.

It's a bit surreal up here in polite-free-healthcare land to see lines of NYD police cars chasing around because they are filming a movie

ob anorak icon

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What's even more important...

...not that it's strictly related to the phone-booth redesign issue in NYC, but a question for you Brits: if, as I understand, the old-style phone booths are being phased out, where does that leave Dr. Who? I guess that'd leave the TARDIS kind of sticking out like a sore thumb, huh?

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Re: What's even more important...

Firstly, the camo for the TARDIS was (is?) a police call box, not a public telephone booth.

Secondly, in theory, there is a story-line in place for The Doctor to recover the TARDIS's capability to automagically fit in to whatever local in time and space that it ends up in ... If there isn't, I'll be happy to submit to Auntie Beeb the story I wrote back in 1974 ...

No, I'm not a Brit ... and the story probably needs serious work. I haven't read it in decades ;-)

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Phone booth designs

I won't speak for NYCers, but here in DC, most of the remaining public phones aren't contained in complete booths but in little open kiosks with hoods over the phones for a bit of protection against weather so, when using a public land-line phone, you're still standing out in the wind, rain or snow while trying to make your call.

I can see the importance of maintaining the land-line public phone network in case the cellular network goes south, but I think any redesign of public telephone booths should also include wifi, and perhaps even a small built-in QWERTY keyboard for email/SMS (though maintaining the keyboards might be problematic), along with a small LCD monitor (sealed behind a half inch of plexiglas, of course) -- and, of course, a standard land-line voice telephone. I'd also include options for inserting bills and swiping credit cards along with the usual coin slot. I'd also insist that it be an actual booth instead of just a little kiosk on a pole, large enough for someone to actually sit down while using the phone.

Btw... while we're talking about the future of phone booths, does anybody here remember the video phone booth that Matt Deckard is seen using in Blade Runner? You know, the one encrusted with felt-marker graffiti, with the screen displaying a bit cockeyed owing to all the people who probably lost money in the phone, got pissed off, and pounded their fists on it -- kind of like an old-style phone booth? I always thought that was a cool scene. Even in the Blade Runner future, phone booths still looked like they should; I liked how, in Blade Runner, the future looked "old".

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IT Angle

Grammar checker?

"Those boxes are covered by a contract signed by the city in 1999, but that expires in 2014 which is prompted this competition."

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