The phone booth is a small enclosed structure that was originally designed to house a pay telephone. Often constructed with the use of heavy duty glass, a metal frame, and occasionally wooden appointments, the phone booth was once a common site on many street corners. The advent of cell phones have greatly diminished the reliance of the general public on pay telephones, resulting in many telephone companies choosing to discontinue offering the service. More commonly today, the pay telephone is attached to a wall in a public building with a small enclosure that helps to muffle background noise.
Sometimes referred to as a telephone box, the phone booth has a history that dates back to the early days of telephony. The first examples of the structure were rather elaborate enclosed spaces that were placed on property owned by the phone companies. This allowed patrons to enter the building, locate a pay phone, and place a call while out running errands.
Over time, the concept of an outside booth became more practical. Telephone service providers would contract with local municipalities to strategically place sidewalk phone booths around the city. This proved to be very convenient for persons shopping in the retail and business districts of a city or town, and provided an excellent source of revenue for the phone company. The pay phones would be emptied of excess change on a regular basis by phone company employees charged with the maintenance of each phone booth within a given service area.
During the latter part of the 20th century, the phone booth began to disappear in the United States and the United Kingdom. Costs for maintaining the booths was sometimes cited as the reason for replacing the full booth with pay phones mounted onto the wall of a public building. By the 1990’s, the newer technology of cell phones was so common that the majority of people could afford to carry a personal phone along for shopping and other errands, making the need for public telephones almost obsolete.
Today, telephone companies still tend to maintain a limited number of pay phones in travel terminals and some public buildings. In some countries where the phone booth is still a relatively common sight, the old fashioned booth is also equipped with wireless connectivity to allow users to step into the booth and make use of the Internet with a degree of privacy. A recent innovation has added the capability of sending and receiving a fax using these enhanced phone booths.