The topic for today is … the phone.
How it came to be …
The concept of the telephone dates back to the acoustic (non-electrical) string telephone or “lover’s telephone” that has been known for centuries, comprising two diaphragms connected by a taut string or wire.
Sound waves are carried as mechanical vibrations along the string or wire from one diaphragm to the other. The classic example is the tin can telephone, a children’s toy made by connecting the two ends of a string to the bottoms of two metal cans, paper cups or similar items. Wikipedia.
And even kids today are tickled by this strange device.
Mom, you are so embarrassing …
Those words haunted me throughout my daughter’s adolescence. My son never cared what I did … on the phone … off the phone … as long as I didn’t expect him to clean his room … he was cool.
My daughter,however, was embarrassed over almost everything I did. I loved to wear what we had called “Skippy” sneakers. “My God, they are as bad as those phony sneakers in Pathmark.”
“You don’t have to look like a pauper to be comfortable.”
Time was that my brothers and I didn’t even know we were poor. These days, economic status or lack thereof, is as bad as not having a wide-screen television.
About two years ago, my daughter was visiting with me in Florida and I got a call on my cell … my no frills … no apps … plain-as-a-Kansas-wheat-field-phone.
She rolled around in uncontrollable fits of laughter. “Oh my God, you don’t really use that thing, do you?”
Fine … I confess … it was a Tracphone from Walmart.
But honestly, it often takes me three months to use up 250 minutes.
My son-in-law this Christmas. “Hey, we have to buy your mom a real television.” He looked at me with more concern than he would if I were walking around with one of those portable oxygen tanks. “Does that thing actually work?”
One a dark and stormy night …
We received all our phone calls at the corner candy store.
Progress caught up with my family towards the end of the fifties and we got a phone. A “party” line at first.
A party line was a phone number we shared with three or four other families so that often when my parents picked up the phone to make a call, they heard someone else on the line.
“Hey, Rosa … get off the phone, I have an important call to make.”
Rosa was known not to care.
Two years later, in our next apartment, my father went for broke and paid for a private line.
That fat, black Ma Bell contraption was to be used for emergencies only. Or it could be used as a blunt object to bludgeon a victim with one swift blow.
In short, we had a phone that no one was permitted to use. And as for my mother’s left-handed pest … I could receive a call on occasion and it had better be a rare occasion.
Social interaction for this teen remained the actual one-on-one kind.
In my twenties two things changed. I was permitted to use the phone and I was responsible for paying the bill.
My father had passed, and my mother decided that if I paid for the phone, I could use it. Not that she still didn’t yell from the other room, “What can the two of you be talking about for so long?”
Or … “You just saw him ten minutes ago.”
A few decades later, she reversed the dialogue, “What you can’t remember my phone number?”
“You think you can spare some of your valuable time to talk to your mother?”
Moving down the road …
When is a phone not just a phone? When did technology make the phone a mini-computer, a means of surfing the internet, and a source of amusement with games?
The iPhone is a line of smartphones designed and marketed by Apple. The latest … model 7 is almost here.
My daughter waits for the newest model, orders it and then sells the old one on eBay. It’s like leasing a car … no hassle and you always have the latest model.
Cellular phones continue to evolve at such a staggering speed, it mirrors the computer world. By the time you break in one, the next one is on the market.
If you are so inclined, you can add an app to your smartphone to accommodate Instagram. My daughter, the one who is still laughing at me, uses Instagram almost as much as her expensive Nikon. She tells me, it’s the convenient way to get great photographs and not have to carry heavy equipment.
There are also conventional cell phones that lack the advanced operating systems found in smartphones and can’t run apps or other flashy features. Standard conventional phones are usually compact with smaller displays, which must usually be navigated via the keypad.
And of course, there are prepaid phones if you don’t rely on your cell phone and only use it to make occasional calls or to send limited texts.
For the times, they are a’changin …
The so-called old ways might have worked for decades … but like the horse and buggy were replaced with the horseless wagon and the plane replaced long car travel … progress marches on. And with each step we take, progress takes a step-and-a-half ahead.
Was the fifties the last age of innocence and if so, what harm has come to us, our children, and their children through progress and technology?
No, none, never.
I believe each generation feels their own tender innocence and upon losing it to becoming an adult, looks back sadly and sighs, “Things were so different when I was young.”
Our grandchildren will no doubt tell their grandchildren much the same.
No matter if you email, post on Facebook and Twitter or blog. Whatever types of modern gadgets you enjoy and for whatever reason you have learned to rely on them … somewhere in a dozen sterile white labs, science nerds are developing the next generation of gadgets.
Tell me if you will,
What was your life before you had a cell phone,
before Facebook or the internet?
Can you think of one thing
you wished remained the same?
fOIS In The City