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Monday, October 10, 2011



Yes, Bell invented the telephone. I have seen photos of the first one but only online or on tv: It was used in many movies referring to his time period. Then came the crank-up type of a telephone; no doubt people were ecstatic about that one! In order to make a call, one had to ask for an operator to connect with another person. Forward in time to the first telephone I was familiar with—the standard black one that had dial on front and a receiver that was placed on top. It had a cord and was affixed to a wall outlet and it sat on anything one wanted but was usually a small table. And again, any person using it was limited in movement for the cord only reached so far; that meant that the person was trapped in a small space in order to talk and either sat down or stood up.

No need to contact an operator with this model [unless one needed assistance] for all he or she had to do was simply dial and reach a person. Some people had party lines—that meant that they shared their phone with one or two other perhaps unknown families. I saw that in action at other people’s houses—the waiting for the other party to get off so that a call could be made. Great if you were an eavesdropper I’m sure. But my grandparents and parents never had a party line; I was ever so thankful.

During this time, I never remember any telephone company repairman coming to their house or mine—it was unheard of! Nothing ever seemed to go wrong. Just didn’t happen.

Within a small time frame [or so it appeared to me,] came a new telephone model: The Princess phone. Slender with the receiver fitting upside down on top was a clever design and you could punch the numbers to make a call. Downfall? It was lightweight and fell off whatever it was sitting on. It came in many colors—swaying from that distinct black one. Oh but the cord was still there meaning that one was literally trapped into a specific space in order to talk. Shock:  Someone created an extension cord for this type of telephone. Opened up a new world of being able to move around more while holding the telephone in your hands—a person could no doubt move about ten feet. Just amazing! Yes, you could get an operator on it as well as the big black model; could even make collect calls to others.

Next came the wall telephone: It was oblong, attached to a wall and yep, there was that cord that limited one in movement in the house. Problem was again solved with an extension cord. Came in many colors [I had a yellow one] and yes, people could sit down while talking or move around a room sort of for the cord or extension cord was the barrier. Was virtually impossible to talk on it and reach the stove should one be cooking unless the telephone cord could reach that far. And it wasn’t touch tone; a person had to literally dial a number. There was no called id or call waiting during any of this time. One never knew who was on the other end when the telephone rang—making it bad if it were a crank caller or a relative who loved to talk for hours. [Yes some people still had the black model but it too eventually came in different colors.]

All the while with these three specific models, there was only one telephone company—just one. With the latter I described, the wall phone, I do remember having to call for a repairman and more than once. Hm. Yes, people still had the Princess phone or the one that sat on a table or all three that were in different rooms. Oh and by the way, all of these models had to be purchased by the owner.

Soon came the advent of a caller id unit that was attached to a wall with a cord running down to an outlet. Some people had these but many did not. I did and it was a pleasure to see who was calling: You could choose to pick up the telephone or not.

Forward some years and a new telephone model appeared on the scene: It sat on a table as well but had touch tone numbers. No more dialing. Woohoo! Came in different colors as well. But ah, the cord was still there as well as an extension cord if needed. Then it seemed as if in a flash that a newer clever model appeared: It had no cord attached to the receiver and this fact let the user actually move to different rooms in the house. No more being strapped down to a specific area. Nirvana.

This telephone model was adapted and readapted into more clever forms—caller id was actually with it so one could see who was calling. Next came call waiting—a feature that let one hear a noise that notified someone else was calling! All he or she had to do was to put the person on hold and switch over to the other caller. Sometimes people forgot that they had switched—leaving the other person in limbo and also leaving that person no ability to call out on their own telephones. Good and not good.

Someone working for a telephone company fixed this problem—if the person was waiting for the other to switch back, the phone would go to a dial tone and that  was a good thing. Personally, I couldn’t count the hours that I got stuck waiting for the other person to hang up his or her phone—and you could hear what they were saying to people in their houses for like forever. All one could do in this situation was to hang up the phone and pray that the other person would hang up the phone. Glad that problem was solved along with millions of others.

Sleeker designs appeared and developed into what we have today—swanky versions of telephones that have tons of features. Good thing. But wait—during this period, came the introduction of the cell phone. My word, people were just shocked! No cords, no wires and no being held down anywhere; of course, the phone had to be recharged but who cared? I remember my first cell phone: It was big—about nine inches in length but I could also purchase cool covers for it. Best of all, if I were out I could call anyone—well that is within a certain range according to what cell phone plan I had. There were not a lot of plans from which to choose; most used the typical one which limited calling to other states.

Soon slimmer and smaller models of cell phones came about. Everyone who wanted one could get it—but it had no camera feature or internet feature –no one had home computers yet. Of course, you the reader are aware of what cell phone are available now—anything is possible with specific models. And all have cameras built in them. And then there is the marvel of texting! First it was geared so that one had to punch a,b or c to get a certain letter and so forth making it hard to text but not for young kids. They were adept at it and still are. The touch screen arrived and my gosh, right there were the numbers that could easily be touched in order to make a call or to text someone.

Texting on a cell phone has led to abbreviated words for it is easier to rapidly text thoughts. “You has become “u.” and then acronyms appeared such as brb which means be right back. Do I understand these acronyms?  Yes, thanks to being on facebook I now know what they mean. Have I ever texted? Yes but not much. Just announced last week was a new cell phone model which lets the person actually talk to it and get a recorded message as to what restaurants are needed or the like.

Oh and all cell phones can have apps which are applications for anything and you can also be connected to the internet as well should you choose that option. Land line telephones [which I described above] are now becoming obsolete with many people: They rely strictly on their cell phones for communication.
I still have a land line telephone as well as a newer model of a cell phone. My point in writing this expose is to state what has happened to the telephone for it is becoming obsolete replaced by cell phones. And it seems as if every  month out comes a new design by many manufacturers—one just can’t keep up with the ever-changing technology at all! Shudder to think of what lies ahead in the future: I personally think that people will have a computer chip embedded into them for communication. Scary thought there but probable. Very probable.

Alexander Graham Bell would just be aghast or perhaps not if he were alive. On my part, I have witnessed so many changes as have people my age that it is mind-blowing but not to today’s teens or twenty-somethings: They devour change and those twenty-somethings are the ones making the changes. Meanwhile, I’ll keep my land line telephone and my now new cell phone—at least I can change the latter. Heaven help us all—OMG! C u ltr.

Sherry Hill

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