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A Project Salvages and Installs No-Cost Payphones to Revive a Fading Technology

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DETROIT — One of the authenticating moves that anchored the 2005 movie Brick in the neo-noir genre was the omnipresence of payphones as the means of telephonic communication. Even as cell phones have outdated the maintenance of landlines in the home, we still pantomime the technology of archaic dialing patterns and receivers, indicating that in our mobile-technology era, there is something fundamental about payphones. The Portland, Oregon-based artist Karl Anderson would tend to agree.

Over the last five years, Anderson and a team of tech-savvy volunteers have developed Futel: a series of industrially salvaged no-pay phones, that enable callers to make free outgoing calls or to interact with operators and record messages.

The project has since expanded to eight public phones and another at a “houseless rest area,” providing more than 12,000 outgoing calls a year, as well as encounters with Futel services, interactions, and operators. […]

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