Party Line

Depending on your age, this topic may bring back memories for some of you. Do you remember the old residential phone service referred to as a Party Line? If you're not familiar with the term Party Line, or if you need a memory jogger, it was a less expensive way to have phone service in that you shared your phone line with another party, hence the name Party Line.

Party Lines were anything but private, and certainly were not secure if you were going to discuss any personal financial information. When we were younger my husband and I had a party line to reduce our phone bill, but we quickly became disappointed with the concept. It wasn't worth the meager savings on our phone bill.

Essentially here's how it worked: Although you had separate phone numbers you would share a line with another residential party. To make an outbound phone call the first step when you picked up the receiver was to listen to see if anyone else was on the line. Common courtesy would say if there was someone on the line then you would quickly and quietly hang up, and then attempt to make your call later.

It seems we are no longer living in an era where common courtesy is the foundation of communication, and a Party Line relied on the participating parties to utilize common courtesy, so I doubt they exist much today.

While engaged in a conversation on our Party Line if a person did not have respect and common courtesy they could have easily ease-dropped on our conversation, and learned much about our private lives. I don't know if that ever happened when we had our party line, but the entire concept quickly became annoying since we could not access the phone whenever needed, or when we wished to.

If a Party Line were available today, would you get one? Most I'm sure would reply, "No way!" If you are someone who would not want to share a phone line with another party, and risk your conversation being heard by a perfect stranger then you may want to re-think what is occurring when you communicate with the technology of email.

Although most think email is private, the fact of the matter is that it is not. Each time you send an email you are in affect sending the message across a huge party line, as it can become accessed by anyone who has the knowledge or the tools to hack and read your email.

If you don't like the idea of another party accessing or reading your email, which you may have thought was private, then you may want to consider encrypted Internet mail, which provides you with privacy. Email is not much different than an old party line, and just as a party line lacked privacy, so does email.

© May 2006 Author: Tammara Nelson
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