The History of the Telephone Box: Part 3


So, the telephone booth, in its original incarnation, is dead. Long live the telephone booth!


And in fact, long it will live, because for reasons unbeknownst, film producers and creepy guys with long hair and dark glasses have taken a rather keen interest in them…


Back in 1997 a certain Mr. N, as he dubbed himself, saw a speck on a map in the middle of nowhere with the word “telephone” written next to it. He decided to make a trip out of finding the telephone booth, got in his Jeep and headed into the Mojave Desert.


After driving around for a considerable amount of time and being lost for the most part of it, Mr. N found it! Eight miles from the closest paved road and fifteen miles from the closest numbered highway at an intersection of two dirt roads. In other words, smack bang in the middle of nowhere.


Chuffed with his finding, Mr. N headed back home and wrote a letter to a small underground magazine. Ending his letter with “It works” and the telephone number: (760) 377-9969.


On the 26th of May Godfrey Daniels read the article and became, shall we say, a wee bit obsessed. Each day Daniels dialed the number and later on started writing post-its to himself as a reminder to dial the number…


Luckily, within a relatively short space of time (considering the bizarre location), Daniels got an answer. One Lorene Aiken answered and after a bit of prompting divulged that she lived in the desert to mine volcanic cinder to make cinder blocks.


Spurred on by this interaction, Daniels decided to visit his much loved, but never seen, Mojave Booth en route to Burning Man. And to make a long story short, Daniels’ visit and subsequent word-of-mouth campaign gave the booth a cult following.


It also attracted some rather suspect characters, most notably, the man who claimed that the Holy Spirit directed him to the booth where he camped out for 32 days and fielded over 500 calls. Some of which came from a man claiming to be calling from the pentagon and saying that the booth was in fact a military installation.


But, alas, all this (most would say unwarranted) attention came at a price. On May the seventeenth, 2000 the booth was removed and destroyed after it was found that all the campers, inquisitives and zealots were damaging the environment, which is located in the Mojave National Preserve.



Fueled by the stories of other pilgrims traveling to the booth, film director John Putch decided to make an indie film, creatively titled Mojave Phone Booth, about it and although no Oscars were won, it did come away with no less than thirteen (some booth-aficionados would probably read something into the significance of this too…) other prizes and awards!


And now, seventeen years after the hype that was the Mojave Booth, another type of booth is gaining a cult following.


You might not find the Air3 Office Phone Booth in an exotic location like the Mojave Desert, but it is designed to be portable and can fit any modern office space. It offers the perfect soundproof spot for office staff needing some private space to make a phone call…perhaps even to someone sent by the Holy Spirit to camp somewhere near an old booth in the desert.



The History of the Telephone Box: Part 2

Here in Queen’s country we like to think of ourselves as being rather great at inventing things. With the thermos flask, lawnmower, light bulb, Television, telephone, Worldwide Web, and most notably – the chocolate bar counting amongst the best British inventions, we have every right to be proud.


But, and there’s always a ‘but’, one has to give credit where credit is due…


The Americans, William Gray and George Long, are widely recognized as the respective inventor and developer of the telephone booth (and please don’t call it a box, this is the correct term if you find yourself on the American side of the pond…) but this accreditation sat a bit sorely with fellow American, Thomas A. Watson.


Watson, whose name later became the first to be uttered over a telephone when Alexander Graham Bell famously called from the adjacent room to say, “Watson, come here, I want to see you”, could argue his stake to the claim of being the telephone booth inventor…


While assisting Bell in 1876 on the final stages of perfecting the telephone – ironing out the kinks in the chord as it were – Watson had to shout into the device to be heard on the other side of the line. This resulted in many a complaint and equally loud threats of bodily harm from the neighbours. Quick to recognize his imminent demise should he carry on shouting, Watson ensconced himself in blankets, soundproofing the delivery of his decibels, and in effect creating the world’s first phone booth.


Whichever way you look at it, the facts are that the first pay phone booth came into existence in the Hartford Bank, Connecticut in 1889. Gray’s pay phone device worked on a pay-when-you-are-done principle but Western Electric soon spotted the possible lack of income this system opened itself up to and in 1898 came up with the prepay system that is still in use today.


The booths proved so popular that four years later, in 1902, 81 000 of them existed in banks, railroad stations and upmarket hotels throughout the United States. Invented so the public can make private phone calls when out and about, the “out” part needed some work and in 1905 the first outdoor phone booth – made out of wood – was erected in Cincinnati. It wasn’t until much later, around 1950, when glass-paneled booths were implemented in America.


Although phone booths have for all intents and purposes become obsolete, there have been attempts to modernize and upcycle them. The city of Shanghai recently converted 500 phone booths to Wi-Fi hotspots, which at least, means the communication can carry on!


Even more modern is the Air3 Phone Booth. Drawing inspiration from its roots, the Air3 Phone Booth is all about making private public spaces but in a completely different design. With its soundproof glass, this acoustic phone booth can be installed in any office space and becomes the perfect spot for private calls, Skype interviews or just a space where you can escape the office madness.

Booths Begotten: The history of the telephone box

William Gray, in 1889, decided that when a man is about town he needs to be able to phone his friends and tell them about his fun. The solution? He simply designed the world’s first payphone and box.

These telephone boxes were placed in busy public areas, railroad stations and fancy hotels to lure in more callers and proved so successful that it took a mere four years before it crossed the Atlantic and found its first British home near Staple Inn in High Holborn in 1903.

In 1920 the UK Post Office introduced the first standardized telephone kiosk (inventively named the K1…). There was no messing about with this design as the models were cast from concrete.

Sadly, very few K1‘s still exist today due to the public’s dissatisfaction of these concrete monstrosities. The London Metropolitan Boroughs were in fact so upset that a competition organised by the Royal Fine Arts Commission was held to find a more acceptable design. Sir Giles Gilbert Scott’s design won and by 1926 the K2, in its familiar red splendor, dotted up in London.

Only three years later, Scott introduced the K3 – a similar in design but constructed out of concrete. The colour scheme involved a lot of cream and only dashes of red.

The K4, designed by the Post Office Engineering Department in 1927, even included a post box and a stamp-dispensing machine. What more could a Londoner ask for?

The K5, introduced in 1935, was made from plywood and had a rather short shelf live as the K6 appeared only a year later in commemoration of the silver jubilee of King George V and soon took over Britain in a wave of red.

Two, more modern versions, the K7 and K8 were used as replacements for faulty, older models.

This brings us to the KX (The 9 got skipped for reasons unbeknownst…). In 1980 Post Office Telephones were rebranded as British Telecoms and would be painted yellow. After a public outcry and a turn in Parliament, it was decreed that the Telephone Box remain red.

With the rise of the cellphone around this time, the sad demise of the telephone box was inevitable.

With the design of the Air3 however, a leaf was taken straight out of William Gray’s book and the decision was that a phone box was still needed. In the office. They came up with the Office Phone Booth – for all those private and confidential phone calls you need to make. It also doubles up nicely as a secluded little spot where you can escape the office antics and take a well-deserved moment of respite.


It seems then, that the phone box will live on!

Have a look here at the new Air3 meeting pod range.


Walter Koscielniak [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Air3 Customized Pods

Customise your Air3 Meeting Pod

The facts came in, the results were tallied and the bottom line is that colour plays a big part in employees’ productivity at work (have a look here).


Luckily, the designers have been a step or three ahead of the game and designed the Air3 Meeting Pods to have fully interchangeable colour panels that you can change at a whim or as the need arises.


Available colours range from warm reds that are proven to improve energy and urgency, to cool blues, which enhances thinking and performance. The Meeting Pods are also available in a range of greens and brown, which respectively supports balance and creates a feeling of comfort.



And if changing the colour completely isn’t enough, the Air3 Meeting Pods are also available in a range different shapes and sizes making it a truly customizable and versatile office necessity:


Half Round Pods: Air 10 and Air 11

Round Pods: Air 12 with a fixed roof and Air 13 with an opening roof

Lozenge (Intermediate size): Air 14 and Air 15

Large Soft Corner Pods: Air 16 and Air17

Minipods: Air 20 and Air 21

Half Square Pods: Air 22 and Air 23

Square pods: Air 24 and Air 25

Rectangular Pods: Air 26 with a fixed roof and Air 27 with an opening roof

Large Square Pods: Air 28 and Air 29

Meet the Air3 range

Eight years since the advent of the award winning Airea Pods, the design has been revisited. The result was the Air3 Meeting Pods – probably the most innovative, advanced and flexible acoustic meeting pod system on the market today.


With the original model designed to address the issues of flexibility and acoustics in an open plan office environment, the new Air3 addresses the same issues, just better.


The aesthetically designed Air3 is built from high quality glass and soft acoustic paneling, which aids insulation and creates a higher level of speech privacy.


Interchangeable panels allows for a quick change of colour and fabric to ensure the meeting pod retains its fresh look.


The untethered nature of the acoustic meeting pods allow for designs of different shapes and sizes that will meet the physical demands of any office space.


The Air3 range starts with two Minipod models; the Air3 20 comes without a fixed table, but can easily fit two people and a small meeting table and chairs. The Air3 21 comes standard with a table, suitable for one user – perfect for telephone interviews or for hot desking purposes.


Slightly bigger than the Minipod is the Half Square Pods. The Air3 22 and 23 are half the size of the big square pods, but still gives you enough space to sit and work at a desk.


A perfect space for informal meetings, the two person Air3 Half Round Meeting Pods are available with either fixed or opening roofs with customizable visibility strips on the curved sliding door.


Round Meeting Pods come in two models; the Air3 12, with a fixed roof, and Air3 13 with an opening roof. Both pods are suitable for up to four people.


The Intermediate model in the range is the Air3 Lozenge Meeting Pod and is suitable for up to eight people. With the Air3 16 and 17 being the soft corner pods.


At the big end there is the square Air3 24 and 25 pods and the biggest being the 28 and 29 Large Square Pods. If, however, you’re not after a square, you can opt for the Air3 26 or 27 which are rectangular in shape and come with a fixed or opening roof respectively.


The choice then, is yours.