- "What's the problem, citizen?"
- —A city official speaking through a squawk box
A squawk box was a device that allowed one to report a problem to a city official. They were present in an alternate 1986. Playing around on them and making prank calls were a violation of the Hill Valley Code and punishable by demerit.
Appearance and function
Squawk boxes were blue or purple and shaped like a rectangle. They had a single circular speaker in the center with a small number of buttons below it. Certain squawk boxes served different purposes and had different channels. Some were built into the walls of the Citizen Plus wards. A more common type was located in various spots around the town, attached to lampposts.
When his time travels landed him in an alternate 1986, Marty McFly needed to contact his friend Emmett Brown, who was the inventor of the time machine Marty had used. In the alternate timeline, however, Emmett was Citizen Brown, the mayor of a miserable utopia version of Hill Valley and the wife of Edna Strickland, who had manipulated him the whole way.
Marty first used a squawk box as a test, pressing a button to see what it did. Later, after violating rule after rule in order to be brought to Citizen Brown, Marty was captured by policemen and involuntarily committed to the Citizen Plus Program, a form of brainwashing used to keep rowdy citizens in line. While in the waiting room, Marty's father, who was in charge of all security cameras, saw his son. Using a squawk box, the two were able to arrange Marty's escape with the help of his girlfriend Jennifer Parker, who was in the room adjacent to Marty's.