Among the reasons folks keep their land lines: emergencies, "bundling" deals, kids.
Antonio Perez, Mct
Land lines are still lifelines
- Article by: KIM ODE
- Star Tribune
- May 5, 2012 - 2:25 PM
Dust always needs a place to land. Take the record turntable, rarely used, but there when you want to listen to some classic vinyl. Or the transistor radio. The sound quality is awful, but it'll come in handy if a storm knocks out the power. The telephone? Well, every once in a while, it does ring.
Sometimes you might even see it sporting a blinking light -- if you ever looked.
"We got rid of our land line a couple of years ago because no one would listen to the messages," said Deb Balzer, a publicist in Minneapolis. "We actually would have disagreements or discord because no one would listen to the messages, let alone pick up the phone. All of our friends have our cell, so we'd assume if someone was calling the house, it was a solicitor or worse."
Pity the telephone.
More than eight in 10 U.S. adults own a cellphone. That proportion likely increased while you read that sentence.
That makes the cellphone the most popular electronic gadget owned by adults in the United States, according to the Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project. No wonder that by December 2010, three of every 10 U.S. homes had only wireless telephones -- an increase of more than 3 percent in that year alone, as reported by the National Center for Health Statistics.
Also: Even in homes that still have a traditional phone, one in six of them received all or almost all of their calls on wireless phones.
But there are reasons people keep a land line (which is a classic retronym, or term for something devised after a similar, but newer, thing has come into use).
Jan Russell of St. Louis Park said her household keeps its land line because they have two young boys "and we wanted to make sure that they could call 911 if something were to happen to us or their 78-year-old grandpa who lives with us."
Russell raised a common concern: whether in emergencies, a cellphone could provide a location, especially if the caller can't do so, or if the cellphone has a different area code than where it's being used. The good news is that most cell- and smartphones now have GPS, or global tracking features. You can be tracked whether you like this "feature" or not.
Still, when time is of the essence, people worry that a cellphone might not be charged, the call might get dropped or that they might not even be able to find it. As with TV remotes, a cellphone never seems to be in the same place twice. It may be in the bottom of a cavernous purse, forgotten in the car (not that anyone used it there), or simply away with its owner, leaving a household incommunicado.
In this new world, "household" becomes an operative term. Back in the day, a phone number connected you to everyone who lived under one roof. Now, callers to homes without a land line need to decide whose cellphone is the best way to contact a family.
In some households, land lines may follow the arrival of children, especially when parents don't want every homework question or "come out and play" call coming in through their cellphones.
When Amanda Lancette and her husband set up housekeeping, each used their own cellphones. "People could contact us directly and we didn't miss having a land line at all," she said. When they bought a desktop computer in 2000, however, they needed a land line for dial-up Internet. With a baby in 2005, it made even more sense to keep the phone for her mother-in-law, who cared for the baby.
"If we did get rid of our land line again, our [cell] phones would certainly become community property," said Lancette, of Eagan. "We already have the issue of missed texts and things because the boys are playing apps on our phones." Still, once the boys are old enough to have cellphones, she said they'll likely drop the land line, adding that they've never had one in their cabin in southwestern Minnesota. "Our cells don't work great there, but we make do."
Some people, such as DeAnn Player, keep a land line because "bundling" services helps reduce the cost of the cable bill. "The only time it rings is when it is a bill collector for whoever used to have the number," Player said. "I couldn't call home if I wanted to -- I have no idea what the number even is."
Richard Anderson of Eagan has a cellphone, but still uses a land line because technology enables him to treat POTS as PANS -- or his Plain Old Telephone System as Pretty Amazing New Stuff. (We're not saying that either of these acronyms has caught on, just that they exist, LOL.)
When Anderson's Comcast land line rings, he and his wife get alerts with caller ID on their iMacs, iPods and iPads, and on the TVs with cable boxes. "Also, when someone leaves a voice message, Comcast sends a text translation of the voice message, along with a .wav file to listen to, and an e-mail to both my wife and me, which we can read on our iDevices or any PC hooked to the Internet." For Anderson, this all is more economical than if he and his wife each had smartphones with data plans, adding that this enables them to "buy a lot of iStuff."
At the very least, an old-fashioned telephone can double as a sort of retro chic design element. Balzer said she keeps a 1950s-era black rotary phone on her desk even after she shut off the service. "Now," she said, "it's simply artistic!"
Kim Ode • 612-673-7185
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