With each passing day, newer technologies replace older ones. The people who have made a career out of tending to those older technologies may soon find themselves on the job hunt.
But Peter Izzo, Jr. and Jon O'Keefe are holding out.
Izzo and O'Keefe are pay phone technicians in New York City. You read that correctly: there are still pay phones in NYC, and there are people whose job it is to repair them. You can watch the two in the video above, which was produced by Mashable.
The number of pay phones in the city has dramatically decreased in just five years — from 21,824 in 2008, to 11,249 in 2013, according to the New York Post. CBS Outdoor, Izzo and O'Keefe's employer, manages 3,200 of the pay phones that are left. Annual coin revenue from these amounts to anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000, an amount that seems negligible when you factor in the overhead costs of technician pay, travel expenses, and so on.
So why not just get rid of all the pay phones in NYC? Why hang on to a dying technology? But that's the surprising thing here, as the Post shows: even though they're steadily dwindling in number, pay phones aren't dying. That's because companies are starting to realize there are more ways to make a profit from pay phones than charging users to place a call.
Take, for example, the power of advertisement. While revenue generated from calls placed has steadily declined since 2008, ad revenue generated from pay phones — the ads placed on the sides and walls of pay phone booths — has seen a sharp uptick since 2010, according to NYC's Independent Business Office.
There's also potential money to be made from turning the phones into wifi hotspots. As the video reports, CBS Outdoor has outfitted 35 pay phones with such capabilities, and is currently trying to find ways to monetize this wifi via sponsorships.
And don't think a pay phone's profit-turning potentials are exhausted with wifi connectivity and ads. In 2012, frog design, an international design firm, unveiled Beacon, a 21st century pay phone that boasts it can help NYC become "more accessible, safer, healtheir, greener, and better informed." Take a look.
As promising as the payphone revolution seems, like all technologies, this, too, has its drawbacks. Last month, BuzzFeed reported that outdoor media company Titan had quietly — that is, without any public consultation or announcement — installed about 500 beacons in payphones throughout Manhattan. Beacons are tiny transmitters capable of emitting signals and messages to smartphones and tablets.
While there may be certain benefits to beacons — targeted advertising, for example — they raise privacy concerns, as BuzzFeed notes. "The spread of beacon technology to public spaces could turn any city into a giant matrix of hidden commercialization — and vastly deepen the network of surveillance that has already grown out of technologies ranging from security cameras to cell phone towers." Within hours of BuzzFeed's publication of their report, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio ordered the devices to be removed from the city's pay phones.
What exactly the future of the pay phone is, isn't clear at this point. What does seem clear, however, is that the pay phone, or some manifestation of it, will live on into the foreseeable future.
And as long as there are pay phones, there will be technicians like Izzo and O'Keefe fixing them.