Beginning in 1878 a single telephone number was often shared by multiple homes or businesses in a geographic area. These lines often were available at a discount over dedicated numbers, and in war time, these were often the only circuits available. There was no privacy on a party line, and often groups of neighbors used them for gosip. Worse still, if you had to make an emergency call, you could not do so until everyone cleared the line. Party lines had died out by the 1980 in most locales.