The white pages has been a staple for almost as long as the telephone has been around, and frankly played an important role in some of our lives growing up. When we got in trouble in school, writing and reading the phone book was a popular punishment in our Catholic elementary schools. We pulled out the white pages when we got bored and needed some people to prank call. The white pages made us feel bigger than we were and propped us to the right height to eat special lunch and dinners at Grandmas house. Probably the most meaningful usage of the legendary white pages was when my Dad would use them to help me see over the steering wheel and let me drive in an open parking lot while he managed the pedals from the passenger seat.
With the proliferation of the Internet and cell phones the white pages have become all but unnecessary as cell phone numbers are not published in those massive tomes; not to mention you can get virtually any phone number you want from the net. Regulators have finally come to see this reality and have started granting telecommunications companies the okay to stop printing residential phone books. The states of New York, Florida, and Pennsylvania have approved Verizon’s request to eliminate residential white pages.
Robert Thompson, a pop culture professor at Syracuse University, jokes, “Anybody who doesn’t have access to some kind of online way to look things up now is probably too old to be able to read the print in the white pages anyway.”
Eliminating residential white pages would reduce the environmental impact by using less paper and ink as well as increasing profit margins by cutting production costs.
The first white pages directory was printed in 1878 and was one page that included all the residential customers in New Haven, Connecticut and culminated in the New York City white pages that weighed in at 3 pounds 9 ounces which ironically enough is about how much 12 smart phones weighs.
With the eventual total elimination of the white pages we will be losing a big part of Americana and personally, some great childhood memories. As much as I agree with the decision to eliminate them I can’t help but be a bit saddened.
What will you miss about the white pages, functionality, memories, neither or both?