In 1998, the sci-fi film The Matrix was in production for its release the following year. The movie boasted groundbreaking visual effects and a software engineer/hacker/savior/action hero consumed by a metaphysical quest. The movie, which would inspire countless imitations and philosophical discussions, gave the pay phone a central role in the future. Not so much in the real world: The year before The Matrix's release, 2.6 million pay phones existed in the United States. Now: Only about 1 million. And with AT&T quitting the pay phone game by the end of this year, pay phones may soon be featured only in the history books.