Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Who needs a telephone booth any more?

OK, this is not typical Paris a scene but very common though. And I still find it funny that with cellular phones (called portable phones in French) any place can become your own private telephone booth!
The first French mobile phone network was created in 1956 but only a few people (500!) could use it. In 1986/87 the first cellular network (called Radiocom 2000) was installed, shortly followed by a second one (SFR) after the government started deregulating the telecommunications market. But it's only after 1991 when they started installing the first digital Networks (GSM) that the mobile phone became really popular. Now almost everybody has one (75% of the French and 98% of the working population).


  1. you forgot to mention the story of the bi-bop, which actually never really took off i believe. soon to be replaced by gsm.

  2. >  Charlus. True, I did not mention it for it really did not take off. The bi-bop was a "mobile phone box" that is a telephone you could take everywhere with you, but you needed to log on to a hotspot before using it. It was most inconvenient... but cheaper that the cellular phone at the beginning.
    Soon, however, because of competition the price of GSM airtime became affordable to almost everybody causing the death of the Bi-bop!

  3. I miss phone booths. You can still find public phones everywhere but (correct me if I'm wrong) most of the booths are gone.

    I still don't have a cell phone...and I worked in the cellular/wireless business for 10 years ! :) They're convenient but so annoying.

    p.s. Charlus - it was while ago but thanks for your input on the 5th Arr.

  4. I wrote some of my thoughts on cell phones in my blog back in December. Interestingly, I got my cell phone invoice the other day (I do have a great plan, both for my phone and for my daughter's), and there was a listing of my daughter's calls (hehe, Mommy knows EVERYTHING!!!) - she had roughly 300 calls for a period of one month! (all covered by my plan, so no problem.)

    And it seems to me that Europeans are even more addicted to cell phones than Americans are...

  5. I think it is the same all over the world!

  6. In France and probably in most countries - cellular phones became rapidly status symbols for in the beginning they were so expensive that only the very rich and the very powerful could afford one.

    So if you weren't rich or powerful that left you with two choices:
    1) Tell everybody that if you do not have a cellular phone it’s because you are neither rich nor powerful
    2) Tell everybody that you deliberately don’t want one for “only jerks have them”

    Needless to say that for ego reasons most people chose the second option… Progressively, though, they became affordable and more and more people were dying to have one.

    But how do you switch from “it’s only for jerks” to “I want one”?

    Generally people found good reasons like “in my kind of job I need to have one, not that I want to but…” or security reasons: “you know with the kids, I feel more secure if I know the baby sitter can reach me within the minute…”

    And that is how you end up with 75% of “jerks” who sworn they would never buy a cellular phone whereas they dying to!

  7. I agree Eric. Like SUV's. People come up with all kinds of creative excuses for having them. For some reason most people won't admit to wanting them because their fashionable. I'ts always "they're safer. It's interesting to see how many SUV's are on the streets of paris these days. I even heard a creative excuse for it from a native Parisian. It's because of the parking problem. His logig is you can bump the car in front of you and behind you better with a SUV. LOL, you know how tight parking can be in Paris.
    The interesting thing is I find Europeans seem to be catching SUV fever( with petrol prices going up I dont' see this trend continuing for much longer) while Americans (where I live anyway)are finally giving up the SUV for the hybrid, this is a trend that started even before the rise in petrol prices. I read an article recently about the popularity of SUV's in Britian. Some villagers are fed up as the roads aren't made for those monsters.
    Last week I was reading an article about an engineer here who developed a car that gets 250 miles per gallon. Now thats the kind of car I want.

  8. I'd thought phone booths were a thing of the past until last weekend in Bangkok - they were everywhere! Good to know Superman still has at least one city he can get dressed in.