In the wake of the Sandy superstorm, some creative solutions have come to light.
With about 25 percent of cell phone towers knocked out across ten states, a different approach has been required to keep people in touch. AT&T and T-Mobile announced plans to share networks in New York and New Jersey, covering some bases, but the lack of overall coverage has forced some people to go old school.
Yes, the mighty but neglected pay phone has returned to fill the void for New Yorkers.
With so many densely populated neighbourhoods without power and coverage, the days of relying on smartphones for help have gone by the wayside for now. People have had to look for locations without the help of modern accoutrements like Google Maps and have had to scamper around in search of communications the old-fashioned way.
Interestingly, New York had recently introduced a program to convert the “useless” pay phones into WiFi hotspots. The “technological dinosaur” was being repurposed to serve new demands, but their sudden usefulness in Sandy’s aftermath may have some reconsidering.
The pay phone is said to have originated in Hartford, Connecticut, thanks to one William Gray. The year was 1889. By 1902, the invention had caught on so much that there were 81,000 public coin pay phones in the United States. It wasn’t long before private companies began to invest and by 2000 there were two million pay phones across the country.
Of course, the arrival of mobile phones changed that and carriers like Verizon and AT&T ducked out of the business.
Now, the objects transported Bill and Ted through time and helped Clark Kent change into Superman are verging on obsolescence. The mobile age has us connected in different ways, with supercomputers in our pockets and a seemingly infinite ability to map out our immediate surroundings.
Without power and connectivity, however, that infinite ability suddenly seems a little less powerful. As popular as iPhones and Android devices may be, they’ve been reduced to little more than $500 paperweights in the wake of Sandy.
It’s a humbling experience, one that illuminates the importance of communication and reliable technology. When disaster strikes, all bets are off and even Siri can be left silent.