I’ve never felt the need to own an Amazon Echo device, partly because I feel like I can Google things faster than a voice assistant can understand me, but mostly because of that one time a bunch of Alexa devices all decided to creepily laugh at their owners, unprompted. But then I saw these antique phones modified with Alexa functionality, which only listen to you when the handset is off the receiver, and it made perfect sense. It’s no longer a hands-free voice assistant by any means, but all these privacy violations have taught us that when the future feels too overwhelming, it’s best to take a few steps back by a few decades.
Christine Sunu and Dick Whitney of Grain Design have created three different models: the Regent, a Belgian model from the 1950s; the Avignon, an art deco-style solid brass phone from the 1920s; and the Metropolis, a handsome candlestick rotary phone with a black Bakelite mouthpiece. First spotted by BoingBoing, the phones are equipped with a USB power cable and come with a one-eighth-inch auxiliary audio jack so you can connect the audio to an external speaker. Most importantly, the microphones are physically disconnected when you put the receiver back down, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally prompting Alexa, or the Echo device emailing your conversations to random people on your contacts list.
The Alexaphones are available to purchase for $1,500 each. Currently, all three models are sold out, but you can place a reservation for them on Grain Design’s website for $200. If I had the money, I’d jump on this invention, if only to feel like an old-timey Victorian woman with a constant need to know what the weather is like.