What Ever Became of…In Home Intercoms?

When we all started living the North American dream, and moving into larger and larger suburban houses, we of course needed a way to communicate within our palatial homes. Enter the in home intercom system. Now with just the simple touch of a button, your shouts of need could be easily transmitted throughout the house. Then at some point these systems fell out of favor. So much out of favor that one of these images came from a DIY article on removing said system from your house.

What has replaced it? Have we as a society just become louder? Do people just text message their kids/spouse/dog when they want their attention?

Certainly the fact that such a system is hard wired into the house doesn’t seem to be the issue. As evidenced by many readers here at AT, installing quality high speed internet connections throughout a home has become fairly common. But what ever happened to in-home intercom systems?


Images from, and modernhomesportland.

  • skitter

    One of my pet peeves is people yelling across the house at me. If you need something, come and speak to me like a civilized person. skitter, please report to the kitchen IMMEDIATELY would probably get an equally bad reaction.

    • tiberiusẅisë

      Skitter, please report to the kitchen, for BACON!

      • OA5599

        If you can't tell the bacon is ready from the other end of the house without an intercom, either someone's frying it wrong or the smoke detector is broken.

  • OA5599

    We had the second one from the top. It was used more for listening to music than for room-to-room communication, at least until cheap boomboxes meant each of us kids could choose our own tunes. I bet my parents haven't powered it up for 20 years, except perhaps to demonstrate it to grandkids.

    Today, with mobile phones so prevalent, I couldn't begin to guess how many times my wife has phoned me from another room rather than actually walking a couple dozen steps. Amazingly, whenever I "don't hear the phone", the related honey-do behind the call ceases to be a priority for her.

  • The Professor

    I use the 'shoe-boot-door' method of getting my sons attention. I stand at the bottom of the stairs and throw shoes and boots at their doors until they come out. When I'm lucky, I nail one of them (the boys) with a boot, but they've gotten pretty wary over the years.

  • Mike Engand

    My wife and I have a business where we kick down a lot of doors and walk through a lot of houses that are being repossessed by financial institutions. We have noticed there are a lot of houses with built-in intercoms, and they all look like they were installed in the 60s or 70s.
    I have not seen one that is newer than that, and any house that has been remodeled does not have an intercom. I'm glad someone else is noticing these are gone and wonder why.

  • betterwrappedinbacon

    Just bought one to install in the house. It is a Nutone from the 60's. I'm psyched.

  • Plecostomus

    I used to live in the original planned community, Rossmoor, in the quaint village of Los Alamitos, CA – my house, a "Medallion Electric Home" featured just such an intercom system – though for my tenure at the home until we removed them, they never worked – but the controls were still in my room. A friend of mine's parents house still has their system installed, intact and in working order and appeared to be higher end system (huntington beach, CA) – this things are kinda neat, if impractical.

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  • Darren O’Connor

    Probably what killed them is that they really aren’t that convenient. It’s nice to be able to push a button and call for someone somewhere else in the house, but not that much more so than just yelling out or going to find them. The radios many of them incorporated are simple, mono radios, with inferior sound to just about any dedicated radio, and certainly to the high end sets many people owned. And then there is the fact they they always seem to eventually break down, but by the time they do, the company isn’t making that particular model anymore, and there is no drop in replacement to be had. My aunt and uncle had one of these in their house. That house was built around the same time as the house I grew up in — the early ’60s — and by the mid seventies, when I was a kid, going to visit my cousins, half the stations didn’t work anymore, and as I said, there was no easy way to replace them. My aunt and uncle’s house also had a built in vacuum cleaner system that had similarly stopped working, long enough after it was made that it couldn’t be fixed, only replaced, and as with the intercom, they never bothered. They just bought a Hoover from Sears.