In my grandmother's house in rural Minnesota was an old-fashioned crank telephone. When we went to visit we were told not to answer the phone, she had a certain ring pattern for her calls, the other rings were for her neighbors. When there was news in the area that my grandmother thought she should know, she would ever-so-carefully pick up the ear piece and listen in on the party line. When the telephone company in her area modernized, they went directly to a modern touch-tone phone, private line. It was one of the first such systems in the country. By taking this step forward, she lost some of her "network" capabilities.
Now we have blogs, chat rooms, instant messaging and e-mails. The blogs and chat rooms are sort of a "party line", with people communicating while others can secretly eavesdrop. My grandmother lamented the loss of her party line, and it took us another 40 years to regain what she had on her crank telephone.