© 2018 Bill Murphy
In school, we learned that history was divided by the birth of Christ… BC before, AD after. Allow me to add another time-division… PCP – Pre Cell Phone.
You’ll have to be less than 50 in age to appreciate the amazing changes that we old geezers have seen and experienced.
I remember when our home phone number was 32246. No prefix. No area code. Think about that for a moment. In my home town of Jackson, MS – that meant the number of telephones was limited to 99,999 telephones… which included private homes, schools, businesses, hospitals, public services… everyone!
We had only one telephone in our home… no extensions. It was a ‘land-line,’ and all connections were made ‘physically’ over wires. My aunt and uncle who lived across the street had a pedestal phone. I always wanted one of those. I think they were classic, as far as telephones go.
Our telephone was located in the hallway, near the center of our home. It sat on a small shelf, in a ‘nook’ recessed into the wall, with a flat shelf underneath which held the phone book. There were numbers, 0 thru 9, arranged around a dial. Each call required 5 ‘dials.‘ WHERE you talked was limited by the length of the telephone cord.
There was no such thing as recorded messages. ‘Speed dialing‘ was determined by the dexterity of your fingers.
Then came prefixes, which allowed the number of telephones within an area to increase. Our prefix was FLEETWOOD. It was dialed as ‘FL.’ New telephones were required for this, for the addition of these alphabetical letters.
To make a long distance call, you had to call the phone company and be connected to the circuits which led out of town and to distances beyond. There were extra charges for long distance… and it was not cheap. You were charged by the minutes you talked.
With the advent of area codes, you no longer had to call the ‘long distance operator’ to make a long distance call. But… the long distance calls still costs extra.
The first person I knew who had a ‘cell’ phone was my mother-in-law. But it was not called a cell-phone. It was called a ‘mobile phone.’ It would not fit in your pocket! The thing came in a box about the size of two shoe boxes joined side by side. It had a receiver to talk into and listen with, just like the telephones at home. She had hers sitting on the ‘hump’ on the floor of her car, between the front seats. It was next to impossible to use with the car in motion.
When wireless transmission really took off, there were not that many ‘mobile phones’ around. But there was plenty of PAGERS. Both my wife and her sister worked for pager companies. A pager was a small hand-held wireless device, that when your pager was called, it buzzed, and displayed the phone number you were to call. It could also display a brief message. But… you had to call the pager company and tell them what pager to page, and give them the number/message you wanted displayed on that pager. Because my wife worked for the pager company, she put the pager software on our home computer… and I could page her directly! “We’re out of milk,” I could tell her while she was on the way home. What a time saver!
The first time this modern technology really rocked my world was in the mid 80s. Carol and I were on vacation in Maine. We were walking down the main street of Machias, ME. Carol noticed something in the window of shop and commented that her sister would like that. There on the street, Carol paged Mary Ellen, describing the item. Mary Ellen paged Carol back, and said, ‘yes,’ she wanted it. Carol made the purchase. From Maine to Mississippi, the deal was settled almost instantly. That was truly amazing at the time!
And practically overnight it seemed, we had cell phones. Gone were the days of being anchored to a wire when you made a call. Now you could talk anywhere… outside, up a tree, under the house. And just as suddenly, that expensive bane in the budget – LONG DISTANCE – was a thing of the past.
Today the world is at our fingertips. ‘Back then,’ if your family didn’t have a set of encyclopedias, it required a trip to the library to learn the capital of Ireland.
But… all this miraculous ‘convenience’ has come at a terrible price. We’ve loosing the gift of gab. Our kids are not learning to communicate, not face to face. Today people can hide behind a tiny screen and lash out and rip apart the lives of others.
Today we’re still chained to copper wires. Today’s chains are the chargers – which people continue to lose – or to borrow… because they lack the responsibility to bring their own along.
When I was growing up, there was a box to be checked (hopefully) on our school report cards. That box was: PLAYS WELL WITH OTHERS. Our kids today, sadly, are in training to lose this ability.
Oh, what were you saying? I was reading a text.