Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Oddness of Current Living

(Or how I learned to love the phone ... with apologies to Dr. Strangelove.)

I just got off the phone from a 90 minute call with a marketing madman in Russia. Let me put that a different way - I just had a Skype video call with a person about software development and marketing who happened to be located in Russia. Nothing odd about that except for handling the 10 hour time differential - the call started at 10pm my time, 8am the next day his time.

But, ... (You knew there had to be a but didn't you?)

My memorable telephone experiences began with a phone little different than this:
You turned the crank and asked the operator to connect you. Heaven forbid that you actually wanted to call outside of the local switchboard. Then the operator would have to arrange the circuit and call you back to connect the call.

But life went on and the dial phone arrived.
Do you know how much of my life that the idea of a 90 minute long distance call was petrifying for fear of the size of the bill? I remember when I was a kid and people didn't even talk on the phone much since there were *gasp* local message unit charges. By the time I was in high school, the local message unit charges were gone and most people had a private line rather than the party lines that preceded them.

Then came college and I was thousands of miles from home (and from the college L was attending). Calls on weekends and late nights were made for the incredible bargain rate of $1.25 for three minutes. I could sometimes afford to call once a week! People locked phones in the dorms by the simple expedient of a dial lock in the 1 hole. That prevented dialing any number or even O for Operator.

But some were clever enough to tap the pulse code the dial generated on the switch-hook, beginning the whole new enterprise of phone freaking.

After graduate school, calls were down to $0.30 a minute and the nascent idea of a cellular phone was hatching. Still, a 90 minute call would have been a true luxury. Not to mention a budget breaker. And the touch-tone phone started to become the norm and the surcharge for having a touch-tone phone on the line disappeared as well with time.

Then came the internet and cell phones and the break up of the AT&T monopoly.

Suddenly there was competition and phone costs began a long decline. Until today we think nothing of fixed price unlimited calling and free or nearly free calls. So my 90 minute video call? Cost me nothing per se.

We sometimes forget about the silent revolutions happening around us all the time. Having a video call with someone was the stuff of dreams and Bell Labs when I was young.

Now it is so common that my shock is not that I talked so someone half a world away on a video call, but the fact that it cost me nothing beyond my already existing internet connection.

Viva The Revolution!


  1. The advances in technology and communication are amazing! I can't imagine what my grandmother would think of today's conveniences when she was impressed with her daily icebox deliveries.

  2. Now that is a business meeting.

    The kids recently discovered an old forgotten rotary phone--they think it is a cool toy.

  3. Nearly every day I see something more technologically advanced than anything I ever imagined.

    Crazy, right?

  4. It's pretty amazing. My experience with phone calls does not date as far back as yours, but I remember getting in so much trouble when I was in high school far calling a boy in another state. It was too expensive and my mom blocked me from being able to call his number.


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