The History of Communication as I See It… Part 1: The Telephone

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My first grand babies entered the world a few weeks ago, in a hospital hundreds of miles away from this grandmother. And, within minutes of their arrival I had pictures of their sweet little faces on my smart phone via a text from my son.  A few hours later, friends and family – and a bunch of people I don’t know, were ooohing and aaahing over these precious little ones as they made their debut on Facebook and Instagram.

And the funny thing is… I took this immediate exchange of information for granted. As though I’ve always had this technology at my fingertips, when in fact, I was a latecomer to the technoparty.

There have been vast changes to the way we communicate over the past decade or two. Smart phones have replaced cell phones, which replaced pagers, (I know, some of you just said, “What’s a pager?”) which brought a whole new level of “instant availability” to the world.

Before that, our phones were stationary devices that were hooked to a wall with a curly cord. If you wanted to drive your mother crazy, all you had to do was empty a box of birdseed onto the floor juuuuuust beyond the limits of that stretchy – but limited cord. (One of my earliest childhood memories right there. And, alas, when my mom hung UP the phone, she reached me just fine. Something my three- year- old reasoning had failed to take into consideration!)

A few decades ago, if you weren’t home when the phone rang, that was it. You missed the call. There were no voicemails, no caller ID, no text messages.

And does anyone remember the “party line?” In rural areas, or to save a few bucks on the monthly bill, you could share a line with several other families. So, you’d listen for your family’s distinct ring before you answered. And if you were the gossipy type, you might listen in on other people’s conversations.

The first long distance telephone call was made May 8th, 1910 from Denver, Colorado to New York City, New York. According to the Museum of Western Coloradohistorical_telephone, the first telephone lines reached Fruita, Colorado around 1900. But, it would be another twenty or thirty years before the majority of western slope households had their own telephone.

I knew a woman who worked for the telephone company back in the 1940’s and 1950’s here on the western slope of Colorado. Her first job out of high school was as the operator who physically connected each incoming call. (Remember the TV show Andy Griffith, and the operator named Sarah that was always on the line when they picked up the phone? Yeah, it was really like that.)  There was a certain young man that she was interested in. Whenever he would ask to speak to another young woman in their little community, she’d “accidentally” drop the connection or connect him to the wrong number. When I met her, they’d been married for over fifty years. They still laughed about how she had kept the competition away.

I love my smart phone. I really do. But, I was checking my email while waiting in line at the grocery store when I realized that the line separating work from the rest of my life has gotten really, really fuzzy.  And the constant flow of cyber chatter can be overwhelming. I find myself longing for “the good old days” when people had an office phone and a house phone. Period. And email was an office thing.

Then I take it a step further, and think about the days before telephones at all. Hmmm. That might be nice. No pesky political calls or pushy sales people, no interrupting of family time. No blurring of the lines between work and the rest of my life. It seems so peaceful… so quiet.

But wait. I wouldn’t have those first, sweet glimpses of my grandbabies. And I wouldn’t have received the call that set my heart at ease, “They’re here. Mom and babies are doing great.” And we wouldn’t have had the answers at our fingertips for all of those new baby questions… Is this normal? What do you do when…? (Wow. I wish we’d had the internet when MY babies were born!) And I wouldn’t have been able to share the joyous news with all of MY friends and family.

So, here it is: I have a love/hate relationship with my smart phone. Technology is my friend. And my enemy. I love feeling connected to friends and loved ones with a simple scroll through social media sites. I love having instant access to reliable directions when I’m in a strange city. And at the same time, I hate the interruptions that pull me away from my time with the people I love. I dislike the distraction and the constant chatter I subject myself to via social media, and the stress of never really leaving work at work. There’s a balance in there somewhere… I just haven’t found it yet.smartphone

  • Crystal says:

    Hey Miss T –

    About the love/hate relationship with tech thing — I AGREE. For me its not so much the interruptions, its the — well — Facebook — and the Internet in general — just sucks time down like crazy. I only have time to read about a chapter a day but I sit down at my computer to do one thing and — well you know the rest — suddenly its 3am — or worse.

    I recommend you read an article that we had for class this week — it talks about a whole other aspect I had sort of worried about but never quite formed the thought.
    Its called “Is Google Making us Stupid?” by Nicholas Carr. Its a few years old — decades by todays instant standards — but I think you will dig it (and possibly be horrified).
    No need for a link — you can just — well — Google it



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