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One of the last manual telephone exchanges with party lines in Australia was closed down in 1986 in the township of Collarenebri, where most town residents had a telephone number of only three digits, and to make a call outside the exchange area it was necessary to call the exchange to place a call.

This meant firstly, frequently ringing telephones were a disruptive annoyance, as each party on the line had to stop to listen every time the telephone rang in order to determine according to the ringing cadence if they were the party being called on any given ring.

Secondly, if any party on a given line should so be inclined, there was the insidious opportunity to listen in on other parties' calls.

Universities also phased out the systems, which were once common in student dormitories.

Illinois State University terminated its last party line in 1990.

In June 1968, the conviction of three Winter Park, Florida men on bookmaking charges was overturned as police had used a party-line telephone in a rented house on the same line as the suspects to unlawfully intercept their communications.

Any handset off-hook therefore tied up the line for everyone.

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A majority of Bell System subscribers in the mid-20th century in the United States and Canada were serviced by party lines, which carried a billing discount over individual service; during wartime shortages, these were often the only available lines.

This distinctive ring would alert all parties on the line who the call was for.

Three short rings signified the call was for the party with the S letter and so on.

In rural areas in the early 20th century, additional subscribers and telephones, often numbering several dozen, were frequently connected to the single loop available. They were frequently used as a source of entertainment and gossip, as well as a means of quickly alerting entire neighbourhoods of emergencies such as fires, becoming a cultural fixture of rural areas for many decades.