Saturday, May 10, 2008

Telephones



I like to think I'm open to new ideas and the use of new technology. I hum along using current technology, perfectly happy and rather smug that I've mastered new gizmos and the concurrent jargon when, WHAM, it's obsolete.

The shift-over starts insidiously enough. A few brave souls try out the new technology. It's usually clunky, not that efficient and prone to problems. More people jump on the bandwagon and the technology improves. Then it's like a switch gets flipped. One minute everyone is using the old ABC, the next, they're using the new XYZ. Think about the switch-overs of vinyl LPs to cassette tapes; cassette tapes to CDs; typewriters to word processors; VHS tapes to CDs/DVDs; dot matrix printers to laser; rooftop TV antennas to cable. The list is endless.

I'm not exactly sure when everyone else changed from using rotary dial telephones to push button touchtone phones. I only know that our family must have been one of the last holdouts for rotary phones.

It's not that we didn't embrace the touchtone. It's just that, being frugal, we didn't see a need to replace the perfectly serviceable black rotary dial phone we had in the kitchen. It had made the trek with us from the last two homes we'd lived in and was a comfortable, solid as a rock appliance. When we moved into our current home in the late eighties, touchtone phones were provided by the phone company for two telephone jacks. The black rotary was an extra that we put in the kitchen. We never gave it another thought.

One day, our youngest son had a friend over to play. We had invited him to stay for dinner and he needed to call home and ask for permission. Fine. We directed him to our kitchen phone. He picked up the receiver -- then silence. He put the receiver back down. I thought perhaps he'd forgotten his phone number.

With an embarrassed look, he said, "I don't know how to USE this."

He had never seen a rotary dial phone, let alone used one before.

It had never occurred to me that there was an entire generation of children growing up with no clue what "dialing" a telephone number really means.

The following Christmas, Santa gave us a new push button touchtone telephone for the kitchen.


p.s. These days, I wonder how many young people can read an analog "face" dial watch or if they can only read digital time.

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10 comments:

Granny Smith said...

We have several phones around the house and two of them are old rotary dial phones. It isn't just that everyone has touch-tone phones but that they are necessary to reach many callers - such as one's doctor or one's pharmacist.

Becca said...

My son (who is now 28) used to play with an old rotary phone as a toy...so at least he knows how to use one!

Great post!

Leonard Blumfeld said...

I imagine the days of the rotary toy phone are over as well :)

GreenishLady said...

Very well-spotted as one more of the aspects of our ever-shifting technology. There was a moment in some time-travel movie where the person who's arrived from the future is faced with that dilemma - handset in hand, numbers there, but no buttons to push. It was hilarious at the time, but this upcoming generation won't get the joke!

nonizamboni said...

Wow, when you think about it, a LOT of things have changed in our lifetime...including the phone. Nice reminders in your post.
Thanks for sharing!

keith hillman said...

Like you, I simply don't remember the change from dials to buttons! It sort of just happened! I suppose voice recognition will take over from touch tone before too long.

Joy said...

I do remember the change. It was sort of a big deal to me for some reason. LOL Now I'm not ready to make the move to having only a cell phone. I can't let go of the land line, which to me is my "regular" phone.

Robin said...

I think back to the days when the only way to make a call was to stand in the kitchen at the rotary wall phone, cord too short to even sit down, and I marvel at how far we've come since then...

one more believer said...

excellent post... never even thought thrz a generation out there who've never seen a rotary phone.. now that.. thaz a scary thought...

Bluebethley said...

Quite a funny musing that made me laugh out loud. I imagine as we get older, the changes will seem faster and faster. Your crisp writing made the humor and surprise of your conclusion even more enjoyable -- and left me wanting more of your musings!