I remember these phones. They now seem ancient but were once indispensable. Every weekend was phone time and I had to even queue up at one of these vintage machines to make that all-important call home.
There were calling cards in many denominations, all with pictures of Bahrain’s landmarks and there were coins – which I diligently collected over the week only to use on the Friday. There were almost no mobiles and calling from the land phone at home was very expensive. Not that calling from a roadside contraption was any cheaper but there was greater control on what I spent. I had to call between certain times, to catch the ‘cheap’ rates and I had to not call during afternoon prayers. And the call was seldom more than a few minutes.
Several years later, there are few land phones and Internet calls rule the airwaves – Skype, Viber, What’s App, Wow and the likes –are what matter.
Competition among operators also means the rates are heavily in the customer’s favour – I now spend in six months what I did in one – and for more phones, calling all the time everywhere. The land phone is a necessity only for the reliable high-speed Internet that drives everything.
But if I say these ancient gadgets are history, I will be wrong. They are still in use by those who prefer ‘land line’ free access to calling card numbers as opposed to calling overseas from a mobile – which still costs twice as much!
These still look nice on street corners – reminding one of the past, going into the future. Scores of them are now dismantled but many stay and they will for some time!