Whatever happened to …

… phone books?

Thanks to Sheila Stewart for the idea to write this particular post.  In doing so, she shared a link to a letter to the editor about how difficult it is for one person from Thunder Bay to get one.

Getting the run-around to get a phone book

We had a little back and forth about the concept.  We do have a phone book in my community but it’s far different from the phone books that I remember as a youth.

When I was young, the phone book came delivered to our doorstep.  It wasn’t just for our community though; all of the listings from the nearby communities were in there.  And, the little villages would be clumped together with the larger town it was associated with.  What was even cooler was the front of the phone book had a map of the communities that it covered and the phone index for each community.  There was also a list of areas that you could call without being tagged with that dreaded “long distance” charge.  Everyone was connected to the Bell network no matter where you were.  There were no local community telephone companies then.

The phone book actually had white pages and yellow pages for residential and business phone numbers.  There was big business in those yellow pages with graphics and descriptors designed to reach out to you beyond competitors.  My mother would take scissors and cut the top right corner of the pages for our community so that we could find things easily in the big book.  We’d drill a hole in the top left corner and run a piece of string through the book and attached it to a nail in the wall.  The phone book was always next to the phone (because it was nailed to the wall too)!

Today, the local phone book is a production of the local newspaper.  Want your own copy?  You have to go into their office and get it.  There’s a big sign on the stand that the books are free but you’re only limited to one copy.  That’s OK; I can’t remember the last time that I used a paper phonebook.  These days, most everybody that I care to call is in the directory in my phone.  It’s just a matter of opening the phone application and finding them.  It’s a necessity since consumer cellphone numbers aren’t in the regular phonebook.  When I need to find someone new with a land line or a business, I turn digital.  Canada411.ca is my friend for this for the most part.  It has both white and yellow pages just a search away.  The neat thing also is that it has a reverse phone number lookup in case I get a call from a number I don’t recognize.  It’s free, unlike the charge for a *69.

When I want to find a business, that works or locating it on Google Maps gives me the number, location, and website so that I can check them out in advance.  And, Yelp and other services let you have reviews and pictures of the place before you invest your time to find it.

Things certainly have changed.  One thing that we’ve lost with not having that big phonebook is a free booster seat for short people at the kitchen table.

Over to you, kind reader…

  • Do you have any memories of the phone book and its use from your youth?
  • Does your community have a printed phone book?  Do you use it?  How do you get your own copy?
  • If you’re reading this blog, I know that you have a digital phone of some sort.
    • Do you have multiple entries for your contacts?  Do you delete the old ones or do you just allow them to accumulate?
    • Do you have your phone synced to your car for hands-free operation?
    • Do you use other services like Hangouts or Skype instead of the tradition phone call?
    • What’s your favourite online business review service?

I’d be interested in your thoughts.  Please comment below.

If you have an idea for a post like Sheila did, drop me a thought at this Padlet.

All of the posts from this series are available here.

Author: dougpete

The content of this blog is generated by whatever strikes my fancy at any given point. It might be computers, weather, political, or something else in nature. I experiment and comment a lot on things so don't take anything here too seriously; I might change my mind a day later but what you read is my thought and opinion at the time I wrote it! My personal website is at: http://www.dougpeterson.ca Follow me on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/dougpete I'm bookmarking things at: http://www.diigo.com/user/dougpete

One thought on “Whatever happened to …”

  1. I love that you chose to blog about this topic, Doug! As a Kindergarten teacher, almost every year, I end up looking for a paper phone book for our dramatic play space. It’s a good “real world” literacy and math connection for young kids. Students LOVE a phone book. I’ve tried the online ones with a computer, but they’re not explored in the same way, so students that are just learning to read and write find them harder to use. Some years, I’ve gotten lucky and someone has had a phone book for me to borrow. This year, I made my own. I put in student names and phone numbers. It’s put in alphabetical order and stored in a binder. The kids love it! They even sit there and dial each other on the pretend phone. Reading (kid’s names and letter recognition) and math (number recognition) all in one. 🙂

    As for my use of one on my cell phone, I’ve never actually learned how to store numbers. I store them in my head instead (I have great recall of phone numbers 🙂 ) and just dial them. Maybe the flip phones are not as user-friendly for this as the Smart phone varieties. 🙂

    Thanks for taking me on this trip down memory lane. I hope others share their phone book stories.



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