With how popular smartphones have become, the title of this article might sound quaint. Even if you are old enough to remember the days before people had portable phones, it is easy to forget just how much our personal methods of communication have changed.

And yet, all of the major telecommunications companies are still offering landlines to their customers. There are still telephone lines all over this country, and indeed all over the world. According to this article, only 41% of households have completely stopped using landlines as of 2013. Personally, I expected the number to be much higher. So, why are these old-fashioned phone lines still being used by 59% of Americans? I think I know why.

It all comes down to one big thing: Security. Where the telephone was once a simple, single-purpose appliance, it has now become a miniature computer. Like a computer, it is a multi-faceted device that can be used for much more than just making a phone call. And like a computer, it is subject to being hacked. While smartphones can be made relatively secure, they cannot be made truly hack-proof. A landline phone, by comparison, is much harder to hack. When looking for telephone service Baton Rouge, you will have no shortage of good options if you feel that you need a little more security.

But what about the old-fashioned methods, you say? There used to be a group of hackers who specialized in monkeying with the telephone system in all kinds of ways. They called themselves “phreakers”, and were considered to be a nuisance in the 1960’s and 1970’s. However, most of the tricks that these people used were not particularly harmful. They were not able to do a great deal of damage with the limited technology of the day. Most of their activities revolved around the desire to avoid paying a telephone bill. They learned how to exploit the system in clever ways, setting up their own telecommunications networks inside of the existing structure. Most of it just came down to making free calls. There were a few instances in which they were caught wiretapping people, but let’s not forget….they got caught. Would you believe that both the founders of Apple were once phreakers?

Detecting a wiretap on a landline phone is relatively easy. Here is an article that explains how anyone can do it. Because this technology is highly outdated, it is not particularly difficult to defeat. Also, the most important tool in a phreakers arsenal is now obsolete. This tool was the so-called “blue box” (also known by a few other names). This was simply an electronic tone generator which could mimic the sounds made by a touch-tone phone. Because the system relied on the use of these beeps and boops to guide the routing of all telephone calls, hackers were able to work the system in reverse, replicating the dial tones in order to trick the system into re-routing their call to any destination. This allowed them to make free calls all around the world. But now, landline networks are no longer run with a tone-based system. Because of this, the “blue box”, and most of the other tricks used by these early hackers will no longer work.

Taking this into account, landlines are actually pretty safe in comparison to cellphones.