Friday, October 10, 2008

Evolution of Communication

I might have been the last person I know to get a cell phone. I fought it for years but a few years ago, when Wife upgraded us to the “Family Plan,” she handed me my phone and welcomed me to the family. Now, several phones and upgrades later, it is indispensable to me and I could not imagine life without it. But sometimes I wish I could.

I can remember living in a house with one telephone. This adequately served a family of four. It was on a wall in the kitchen and it belonged to the telephone company. It had a rotary dial.

Local callers could be heard perfectly. Long distance calls (which were very infrequent in my house) were a little scratchy and I can remember my dad hollering into the phone talking to his mother who lived out of town. But, generally speaking, parties on each end could be heard pretty well.

Eventually my parents got a phone in their room. We had really moved up in the world. Then we moved into a two-story house and actually had three phones. At that point we had defnitely arrived. Again, the phones belonged to the phone company.

I don’t remember there ever having to be any repairs made to any of these phones. The phone company never visited our house that I remember, other than for installation. We might have occasionally lost service during a storm but it was quickly restored.

Somewhere along the way the government intervened and broke up Ma Bell. It was about that time that we had to start buying our own phones. They were junk. One would last a couple of years at best and of course, once it broke you had to go replace it. I’m guessing landfills today are full of old, crappy phones.

As technology progressed, so did changes and advances in phones. Push-button keypads replaced rotary dials. Telephones became a part of home décor and Mickey Mouse could just as likely be cradling your ear-and-mouthpiece as the boring black or white nondescript base unit.

Wireless remote technology made it possible to carry the receiver and walk around the house unattached. Answering machines (now called “voice mail”) allowed us to never miss a call and “call waiting” gave us the ability to be rude and stop one call and take another. Eventually – and this one really sent me over the top – we were even able to tell who was calling us when the phone rang, allowing us to pick and choose what calls to take!

Then, of course, cell phones came along. They are great, but how many times do you get cut off in the middle of a conversation? How often do you hear, “I’m losing you” or, “You’re breaking up” when you are talking to someone? (“Can you hear me now?” is the question asked in the popular commercial, mocking the company’s rival carrier. In reality, though, neither is better or worse then the other). This never happened when the phone company owned the phone that resided safely in the house and was wired into the wall.

And of course obtaining cell phone service is like getting a bill through Congress. I long ago had to turn it all over to Wife after it became evident that I would be imprisoned for assault or murder if I had to talk to another representative who tried to help me decide what plan would best meet my needs and lifestyle. For the love of everything holy, all I want is a phone. It does not have to do anything but make and receive calls. It does not have to have a personal ring or be a certain color or anything like that.

And do you think these things are reliable? I could not even begin to tell you how many of them we have replaced in my family of five. We used to get the insurance but decided that was a waste. There are supposed to be warranties on them but of course they don’t apply when phones are dropped. Or immersed in water. Or thrown like a ball. Or slammed up against a locker at school. Or run over by a pickup truck.

Don’t ask.

I have suggested we discontinue home phone or “land line” service at our house since we all have cell phones. Wife disagrees, saying if we have an emergency, the 911 dispatcher might not be able to find us if we call from a cell phone. I guess she is right.

And since the emergency might well be related to my having thrown our cell phones into the street to allow vehicles to run over and crush them, it will probably be a good idea to have another option.


Kelly said...

This is great, Bob! You sound just like my husband!

I have to admit I got caught up in the cellphone craze early on. I got my first "bag phone" as a deal for setting up a small CD at a local bank quite a few years ago.

My latest acquisition? A BlackBerry! I'm still learning all its "bells & whistles", but I think I'm going to love it!

Pam said...

I'll never get rid of my land line. I use my cell when I'm out and need to have it on, that's about it.

My daughter lives with hers like it's a body part.

I remember the old rotary phone, then the extension phone out in the hall with a cord I could barely stretch into my bedroom door to have some privacy! That phone at the top of the stairs was the extent of my 'own' phone.

I remember my first car phone, in my Lexus over a decade ago. Those were the days before I downgraded into a functional 4Runner with a plate that reads "Round 2", as in raising kids again.

To be honest, I find cell phone use in public to be, in large part, rude and irritating! People walk around like Blue-Tooth aliens and you never know if they are talking to you or another planet. Neither, I've noticed do the clerks, etc. that have to ring them up during idle chat.

Drivers that talk and text are the latest menace and culprits in increasing accidents.

Sometimes I wonder if cell phone count as an addiction?

Don't get me wrong, I can't imagine not having mine, having it fully charged and in my purse, in case I need or want to make a call.

One has to wonder, however, in terms of evolution, is the Blue-Tooth Alien a positive advancement or one that will soon face extinction? LOL!

quid said...

Good essay, Bob. We'll have to trade water immersion stories sometime. Sigh. I wonder how many I have put in the washing machine.


Redlefty said...

I'm with you, Bob. I'm only on my second cellphone ever owned.

Debby said...

Warranties also null and void when a can of soda explodes in a back pack, as we learned with Cara.

I used to tuck my work phone in the front of my shirt while I was out and about. One day it began to beep and vibrate. I pulled it out (I work alone, mostly) and watched the screen go blank before my very eyes. Turns out they are not sweat proof either...

Finally, our family cell phone is the first one that my 22 year old son ever bought when he was in 10th grade. We still use it nearly daily. The kids are horrified. It does not take pictures, or play music, or receive e-mails, or... It is equivalent to cell phone dinosaur.