The Student Room Group

I’ve just found out phone directories were a thing

I don’t think I’ve led a sheltered life - but I never knew until today that there used to be big books in everyone’s house that had pretty much everyone’s name, address and phone number in. You could literally just look up where someone lived and what their landline number was.

Mind blown.

So….why was this not a huge privacy and data problem back then? In the 1980s or whenever this was? Also - what exactly was the rationale for these even existing? Why would you need to know the phone number of someone that you couldn’t ask in person? Surely if you know someone well enough to phone them at home you would know their number?
Reply 1
they still exist. it just online now
Reply 2
Original post by Trinculo
I don’t think I’ve led a sheltered life - but I never knew until today that there used to be big books in everyone’s house that had pretty much everyone’s name, address and phone number in. You could literally just look up where someone lived and what their landline number was.

Mind blown.

So….why was this not a huge privacy and data problem back then? In the 1980s or whenever this was? Also - what exactly was the rationale for these even existing? Why would you need to know the phone number of someone that you couldn’t ask in person? Surely if you know someone well enough to phone them at home you would know their number?

You could be ex-directory and not be in the book. You were only given your area and there was no internet to look up phone numbers of shops etc.
Reply 3
Original post by Trinculo
I don’t think I’ve led a sheltered life - but I never knew until today that there used to be big books in everyone’s house that had pretty much everyone’s name, address and phone number in. You could literally just look up where someone lived and what their landline number was.

Mind blown.

So….why was this not a huge privacy and data problem back then? In the 1980s or whenever this was? Also - what exactly was the rationale for these even existing? Why would you need to know the phone number of someone that you couldn’t ask in person? Surely if you know someone well enough to phone them at home you would know their number?


Also do you think we walked around with a book in our pocket to write the numbers down in?I kept mine for ages and it was really useful when you had to send out invites to something like my mum's 60th birthday.It was a surprise so I could just look up her friends names and get their addresses or phone them.
Reply 4
Original post by Trinculo
I don’t think I’ve led a sheltered life - but I never knew until today that there used to be big books in everyone’s house that had pretty much everyone’s name, address and phone number in. You could literally just look up where someone lived and what their landline number was.


Strangely, I had a copy of the BT Phone Book for my area delivered to my house in the last week. I thought they'd stopped printing them. (Maybe I've confused that with the Yellow Pages, come to think of it.)
Some parts of England still get small phone directories from their local chambers of commerce delivered annually to the local residents.
Printed copies of BT Phone Book will stop being produced after March 2024.
Reply 6
We were ex-directory for as long as I can remember.

I feel old reading this thread.
If you don't mind me asking, how old are you?

My parents were still using ours as late as 2010 at least.

The internet only became widely available in the mid-late 1990s (before it was mainly concentrated in universities, big businesses, etc), a majority only took it up in c. 2003 (broadband overtook dial-up 2 years later), in general it was still pretty primitive through the early 2000s. When I was growing up in, say like 2006, I still doubt you would reliably find phone numbers for every business, etc, on there.
(edited 9 months ago)
Ooo this is interesting
Reply 9
My mother would use ours as a door stop because we very rarely used it :biggrin:
Just to add to the above.

Although you only got your area delivered you could access them all in public libraries or ring directory enquiries with a name and rough location and get the number.

How else were we supposed to find people with silly names to make prank calls to?
Reply 11
London phone boxes used to have about 5 directories mounted on a rack

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