Before cell phones, pagers and caller I.D.
March 10, 1876, Alexander Bell would say the words “come here Watson, I want to see you.”
That was the beginning of the telephone. The race was on to get everyone talking. I’d like for you to join me on a journey of what it was like when we all a phone, but the restricted uses it had made us all innovative.
This is an informal list of what it was like.
You dialed zero and talked to someone.
When you called an operator for a number, she could find it.
People in the store would say hello to a stranger instead of talking into a Bluetooth.
Everyone in the house used the same phone, usually located in the hall, on a small table.
You could go hours, even days without talking to someone.
If a phone you were calling was constantly busy, you could call the operator to interrupt the call.
It was when long distance was so expensive, that a couple of long conversations a week could cost you as much as your mortgage.
You never had to dial an area code, unless it was long distance.
You could be stuck in the middle of nowhere, and still get help.
You couldn’t reject a call, you had to answer it and take a chance on whether or not you really wanted to talk to the caller.
You had a special code, like let the phone ring once, hang up for a minute and call back to identify you as the only caller who did that.
You could make a new friend just by answering a payphone.
Call boxes on the free way.
Your parents could lock the phone, so you could receive calls but not make them.
You had at least a dozen phone numbers memorized.
You had a book of numbers in your purse, and a bigger book at home.
You could call the operator from a payphone, tell her you lost your dime and she could return it to you over the phone. You could do this at six phones and buy a pack of cigarettes.
When you called in sick at work, you had to talk to someone.
You couldn’t video tape a fight on the school bus.
Most young people can’t appreciate the simplicity that some of us older folks did. I can say that it is part of the evolutionary process. Every time one of us said, “it would be great if I could call that person right now.”
I can remember when I was fifteen, my parents needed to take an extra car to Maryland. They let my brother drive one. So my brother, my sister and I followed my parents. Somehow, we lost each other on I-95. We didn’t make any back up plan in case this could happen. We had no money, and no idea of how to get there. We remembered that my parents always stop at South of the Border so we drove there and looked for them. We found them. It would have been nice to have been able to call them, but we made it.
I believe that every thought is a spark. “I wish I could call that person right now,” Sparked where we are today.
So keep thinking good things. Every thought counts.