Pay Phones during BMT
Pay phones once played an important part in everyday life in Singapore, even more so for recruits during Basic Military Training (BMT).
The two-week confinement period during BMT was perhaps the most restricted period for the national servicemen. In those days without the internet or handphones, the connection with the outside world was basically cut off. At night, dozens of recruits queued up in long lines at the coin phones to make calls to their families and loved ones. Leisure time was short, as it was lights-out by 10pm.
Pay phones were for many years coin-operated. Users would have to insert 10 cents to operate the pay phone, so it was not uncommon for recruits to keep a stash of 10-cent coins around for this purpose. While the early phones had traditional round dials, newer models with push buttons and a digital display were rolled out in the mid-1980s to provide greater convenience for users.
The switch from coin-operated pay phone system to card-operated phone system also took place in the mid-1980s. Recruits switched to carrying prepaid phone cards, which were issued in simple designs that indicated their stored values in the denominations of $2, $5, and $10.
While the rise of mobile phone technology in the late 1990s led to the gradual decline in usage of pay phones on mainland Singapore, pay phones remained popular with recruits during BMT, as it is their primary way of connecting with the outside world.
It is rare to come across a pay phone these days, especially since pretty much all of us own mobile phones. When was the last time you used or saw a pay phone? Share it with us in the comments!
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