New Shoes in the Rain

Friday, July 7, 2017

Phoning it in

Good Friday morning, campers!  Aren't these holiday-shortened weeks strange?  This week has been for me, and I'm only working three days this week!

I've been thinking a lot about the telephone and how my relationship with it has evolved over time.  Not uncommon that my relationship has changed; everyone's has over time.  But in reading about the forthcoming Apple iPhone 8, as well as watching some different programs on television, I began to think a bit more specifically about this.

I'm almost 57, so my earliest memories of a phone are of one located somewhere in the center of the house.  The one we had was a rotary phone, naturally, and was black and heavy.  I always wondered if they didn't make phones out of the same material as a bowling ball.  And my earliest memory of a phone was one located on a stand in our dining room in the house where I spent the majority of my upbringing.

We moved to that house when I was seven, I think, and that was the same phone that occupied that location until I was out of the house in my early twenties.  It was at that time that the phone company pretty much got out of the phone rental business and "allowed" people to choose their own phone hardware.  Of course, the phone company (South Central Bell, in our case) had to come and retrofit your wiring to allow a "modular" phone installation.

When I moved out I shared a house with a friend and he was already in an apartment, so he simply paid to move his phone to our house.  Then he moved back in with his parents, and I took over the phone account.  Years later I got a somewhat frantic call from "the phone company," though I don't know which one it was, telling me that I had failed to pay for a phone that was owned by first my roommate and then me.  Not clear on how, but that got settled without any major problems once the situation and explanation was made plain for everyone.

I met my wife about 33 years ago, and she had one phone in the house, a wall-mount phone in the kitchen.  Not long after that we got a cordless phone, and that was a revelation!  You could now walk around beyond the boundaries of a phone cord and still TALK TO SOMEONE!

Unlike many folks with teens in the house, we never had to resort to a separate line for one or both of our kids.  And around that same time, I began to play around with the Internet, using a service called Prodigy to visit websites, chat boards and the like.  All done via a dial-up connection, which, of course, tied up our phone line.

I got my first cellular phone when I took my first job that required travel.  My territory was the state of Kentucky, and this was when roaming was common, meaning that you were paying extra to use your mobile phone outside of your designated service area.  I was never shown the potential problem with this, as I was on the go every day, and would spend time making calls while driving to set up the next week's appointments.  Little did I know that making phone calls while ripping down the Daniel Boone Parkway in southeastern Kentucky would be so expensive!

This evolved into consolidation of the cellular phone industry into the three or four major national carriers we have today, and, with that, roaming just kind of went away.  But your minutes package was crucial.  I remember attending a conference in Traverse City, Michigan and playing golf with an attorney.  Great guy, quite the raconteur, and he was on his phone every few minutes, mostly to answer calls about active cases handled by his staff.  I asked the guy what kind of minutes package he had, and his answer floored me.  He said he paid for 1500 minutes per month, and often used them all.  Do the math and think about how long that is!

My first "smart" phone was the venerable BlackBerry 7200, which had the classic click-wheel on the side to navigate an onscreen (but not touchscreen) menu and to scroll up and down through your list of e-mails.  What a great innovation!  Suddenly I was freed of lugging a heavy laptop all over the country, as I could get all of my e-mail messages on a handheld device!  Magic!

This was probably around 2005 or so, and I continued using BlackBerry branded phones until around 2011, when I got my first iPhone.  Mine was a corporate issue, but my wife had had one for a year or two by then, so I became familiar with the ins and outs of using an iPhone that way.  Luckily, I was able to help my employees with their iPhones, too, so that was a big help.  I've had an iPhone of my own or one issued by my companies ever since.

The newest version allegedly will include an OLED screen (old hat for Samsung and other phone makers, but a good step forward for Apple) and may even involve facial recognition instead of the Touch ID feature.

They're no longer phones, you know, but rather pocketable computers that also let us make a phone call now and then.  And, yes, my wife and I are old-fashioned to still have a land-line, at least for now, but we only use it to speak to our kids or my wife's mother, as they're about the only meaningful calls we receive or make.

I thought that rather than becoming bigger again, as people want that larger screen on their smartphones (myself included, as my eyesight isn't what it used to be), that we would instead move toward what's shown in movies like "Minority Report," where it's essentially a self-contained earpiece that makes and receives calls.  Shows what I know.

Sorry, gotta run, my phone is ringing.....


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