I was looking at my telephone this morning and contemplating its placement in my home and how I used it, and I came to some interesting revelations.
Historians have traced the development of the phone and its integration into the home, but have they thought about where the phone was? More specifically I mean where we had the phone in our house. I grew up in the 1970s (oh-oh aging myself here) and our telephone was situated in the hallway, hung on the wall. Our main telephone looked like the above photograph, a black rotary dial phone. It was big and it hung at adult height, but had a long cord on the mouthpiece so my brother and I were able to talk to our grandparents when they called.
But it was in the hallway. It was not part of the living parts of the house. It existed separately from the rest of our lives. If we went to talk to someone we had to stand in the hall and do it. Sometimes Mom would drag a chair from the kitchen, but it was not there all the time. Other people we knew had the famous telephone table, the lovely seat which had a small table attached to place the phone and the phone book. I was able to google a number of images of such a thing, but they are no longer in production. Instead they are vintage pieces or trash finds. These pieces of furniture were designed to house the phone. Talking on the phone required specific furniture, no sitting comfortably on the couch and talking, no you went to a designated space and talked there.
We had maybe two phones in the house, tops when I was young. There were only about four outlets to plug the phone into, and two of those were because the previous person who owned the house used those rooms as offices for his business.
When we moved we had more phone jacks, but still only two phones. The main phone then was in our kitchen. It was still separate from the main living spaces.
I look at my apartment now and there is a jack in every room, and I have three phones, and then there is my cell phone. The phone has been integrated into our living spaces, and are now more a part of the home. The ironic part of this, of course, I get fewer phone calls. People email and text more than they phone. The most frequent callers now are telemarketers!