BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 10:40 GMT 11:40 UK
R.I.P. Phonecards
Phonecards , passed away unmourned and in near-obscurity in phone boxes all over the UK, aged 21.

It was a humble and anonymous death for something which had once been heralded as The Future. Sales in 1991 were as high as 74m, but they slumped to just 7.2m last year.

The birth of Phonecards in the UK in 1981 signified the dawn of a new age of telecommunications, coming as they did into a world where people were accustomed to forcing 2p pieces into cantankerous phones which guzzled money like charity boxes.

To be able to use credit-card style payment revolutionised things for many, not least cub scouts who had been conditioned always to carry a coin in case they needed to make a telephone call.

The subsequent discovery by mischievous schoolboys that credit levels on phonecards could be tricked by the cunning application of masking tape may have been one of the factors leading to the introduction of "smart" phonecards.

The colourful designs used by telecom companies led to the development of an enormous market for collecting phonecards. The highest price ever paid for a BT phonecard was 3,000 (dwarfed by a Taiwanese card which sold for 28,000). Even now, vast areas of the internet are being used to celebrate their life, many collectors unaware of the British phonecards' untimely death.

Phonecard
Happier times
Friends may well see a certain irony in the death of phonecards, overtaken as they were by technology itself. Phoneboxes of every type seem to have met their nemesis in the rise of the accursed mobile phone. The improvement of service in coin-operated boxes removed also much of the uncertainty on which phonecards thrived.

Perhaps the final insult came with the arrival of mobile phones which are themselves the size of credit cards.

The epitaph reads: "Insert more coins."

No flowers.


I'd love to write a long tribute, but my mobile's ringing...
Anna, Thailand

Card expired
Bibby, London

ET text home
David, Jerusalem

What's to become of shady prison economies the nation over?
Surrender Monkey, UK

Add your tribute, using the form below

Send us your comments:
Name:

Your E-mail Address:


Country:

Comments:

Disclaimer: The BBC will put up as many of your comments as possible but we cannot guarantee that all e-mails will be published. The BBC reserves the right to edit comments that are published.

Roll of honour
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more UK stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more UK stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes