I’m thankful for push-button phones, cordless phones, cell phones, answering machines, voice mail, Voice over IP, and video calling.

I didn't mind dialing a number—numbers were shorter back then—but phone buttons are used for a lot more than dialing these days, and that became possible when the clicks were replaced by tones.  (Can anyone besides me remember phones that converted button presses into clicks?)

Once upon a time the 25-foot phone cord was the great new technology that let one actually get some work done while talking on the telephone.  It was almost always in the kitchen, where it may have caused a child to trip or become entangled, but was overall much safer than using a cell phone while driving.*  Still, cordless phones are much more fun, enabling work to be done in other parts of the house … and poolside relaxation without fear of missed calls.

Not that missed calls are so much of a problem anymore.  Various answering devices have all but eliminated the slavery induced by the fear that this call is the all-important, critical one from your boss, or from a family member in trouble, and therefore it has the right to interrupt any and all other activities—even though nine times out of ten it turns out to be a sales call and 999 out of 1000 is something that could have waited.  Call forwarding technology performs a similar liberating function, especially the kind that allows one to forward only calls from specific numbers.

Call waiting, annoying as it sometimes is, is a boon to those who like to have long telephone conversations—and to those who share a phone line with them.

Cell phones?  Yes, they have in one sense tethered us.  (What do you mean I can’t reach you on vacation?  Don’t you have a cell phone?) But the freedom they have bestowed is even greater, especially on women and children.  Think about driving (or letting your child drive!) alone late at night without a cell phone, and you’ll see what I mean.**

I won’t get into Blackberries, iPhones, and other amazing devices here, because I don’t own one.  Yet.  It’s really hard to think about giving up my $100/year cell phone plan.  But they have liberated many people from the need to lug their computers around with them, which I can appreciate.

Voice over IP and video calling?  One word:  Grandchildren.  Smile


*Ahem. Like the driver who would have hit me and my bicycle recently if I had not been extra cautious crossing the road, as she cheerfully continued her phone conversation while turning right on red without stopping, or even pausing, and certainly without looking, as I was spang in the middle of the intersection when she began the turn. Harrumph.

**No guarantees, though. The likelihood that your car will break down in an area without cell service is diminishing, but I remember well a particular time in the mountains of Western Pennsylvania….

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, November 20, 2010 at 6:23 am | Edit
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