How was life before cell phones

Communication without cell phones? That was really possible! Sounds strange - but that's how it is

Rotary dials, yellow telephone booths and heaps of coins - what sounds strange and almost exotic to today's young people brings back wonderful memories in the children of the 80s and 90s. Communication without cell phones really worked and wasn't that bad at all. Clearly, nowadays smartphones & Co. offer a lot of advantages, but the time before the small wipers was certainly not bad either, on the contrary, somehow it even had something for itself. Reason enough to indulge a little in memories and take a small leap back in time approx. 20-25 years. At a time when communication was so very different.

Camera and apps? Nothing! The phone was only used for making calls

Even then, it wasn't as if there were no telephones at all. They just weren't mobile and also had significantly fewer features than today's smartphones. Cameras and loads of apps were nil, the telephone from back then was only used for telephony. Those who still wanted to take photos grabbed a camera with a film in it, those who needed a GPS got an atlas and whoever wanted to buy something went to any store. It wasn't all that difficult somehow.


No phone without the black cord to wrap your fingers in so nicely

The telephone from back then was mostly in a central location in every apartment, e.g. B. in the hallway and could not be moved very far from there. The reason: A cable that was decidedly too short, which apparently had the only advantage of being able to wrap a finger in it when making a phone call.


The models from the 80s even had a classic rotary dial, and later there was an absolute novelty: buttons! In terms of color, the vast majority of options were not offered for many years; there was seldom much more than dark green, dark blue, dark red or black to be seen.


At some point a trend-setting innovation came onto the market, namely the cordless telephone. But let's first turn to the good old cord. When you look back, there were really quite a few hours in which you had the receiver to your ear. Of course, most of it could have been discussed at school two or three hours beforehand, but that wasn't the case, for whatever reason. Those who did not want the rest of the family to gain a great deal of information about the content of the phone call or the identity of the person they were talking to would rather call themselves instead of being called as a precaution. Being called always posed the problem that someone else from your own family answered the phone first, which was not always wanted. Privacy and such.


In order to avoid annoying questions and stupid sayings, however, a fixed appointment could simply be arranged for the conversation. A minute or two beforehand, you stood at the device, highly motivated, so that you would definitely be the first to have the receiver in your hand when the phone rang.


That moment when bad-tempered parents answered the other end of the line

But as I said, the most secure option was to call yourself. Also at the risk that at the other end of the line it was not the desired person but a parent who answered the phone and asked in a bad mood who it was. Or little siblings who giggled and annoyed. Incidentally, the money for the phone calls didn't matter, the calls back then were affordable even without a flat rate and the parents also got the bill.

"Yeah, I'll be done right away. Just two more minutes! Really."

Once the connection was established, the conversation could begin and then continue indefinitely.


After being planted in some quiet corner (as far away from the rest of the family as the length of the cable would allow), armed with candy and a drink, they chatted like there was no tomorrow. Much to the chagrin of the rest of the roommates, who often complained several times about the duration of the conversation. The answer was usually: "Yeah, just two more minutes". Which, of course, was not true and only served as a delaying tactic.

That relieving moment when the phone booth was empty on arrival ...

Those who found telephoning at home too exhausting simply stepped out to make themselves comfortable in one of the phone booths that were standing around everywhere before the turn of the millennium. After a more or less long walk or a ride on the bike, the first success on arrival was to find the yellow little house empty, because who wanted to wait forever for the previous speaker to finish?


Once in the house, the whole 10 pfennig coins were placed on the device, ready to hand at any time to be able to reload. Rumor has it that very motivated people even started with several Mark coins. After the first Taler disappeared into the device, the number was dialed, with a lot of hope that the desired person could actually be reached or that the line was not busy, because then the way to the phone booth would have been in vain (for now).

Occupation while making a phone call: smear an “I was here” somewhere

If you were lucky, you could sit comfortably on the phone book holder a short time later and leaf through the yellow pages during the conversation, paint them or alternatively smear “I was here” on the wall. In between the coin chute was refueled lively, again and again and until a.) There was nothing more to say, b.) Someone else who also wanted to make a phone call, knocked on the window from outside or until c.) All the coal was gone was.


In this case, the last few seconds became more and more hectic, the countdown was inexorably against you and it was essential to say what had to be said at breakneck speed. At some point, however, the longest conversation was over and we went back home. Without coins.

At that time they actually talked. So very old school with eye contact and so on

Looking back, one can say: All in all, it worked quite well without a cell phone! By the way, it went just as well once you had an appointment. At school, as with the phone call, a fixed appointment and a meeting point were simply arranged. Due to the fact that no messages could be written according to the motto “Come later” or “Where are you?”, Then mostly everyone stuck to it and was on the spot on time. The whole thing was simply more binding.


Another positive side effect, which is definitely neglected today: During the meetings with friends there was talk! Totally old school, very simple conversations with eye contact and such. Sad but true, some of them can hardly manage this nowadays because they are constantly paddling around and running through the area as if remotely controlled.

Even if it used to be a bit more cumbersome, it was still beautiful and special

Yes, in retrospect, the communication without cell phones was sometimes very exciting and even if it was a bit more awkward here and there, it was somehow nice anyway.


It's not for nothing that people fondly remember the good old days, because they offered a lot of beautiful things and seem much slower and more relaxed compared to the here and now. Or how do you see that? How did you communicate in the past and what made your phone calls so special back then? Share your memories with us and indulge in memories together with us.

Did you like our first text and want to have more memories in writing? Then leave a like here or directly on the page of our columnist Thomas Bentler. In the future we will surely knock out one or the other text for you ... 😉