Today, when I think of all the new things a year can bring, I realize some would have been quite unimaginable in the not too distant Airplanes, sure—but a tiny drone planned to deliver packages? Even familiar items get an unexpected twist as innovators do their thing.
I’m thinking the telephone here. When I was young (a century or ago), a telephone was firmly attached to the house by a cord, or even secured to the wall. I picked up the receiver and a voice said, “Number, please.”
My answer was, “Three, four, five, oh, J,” and presently, my grandmother answered.
I don’t remember those earliest phones specifically—not until we moved into a farm house when I was in seventh grade. That phone was a wooden box, about a foot and a half tall by maybe ten inches wide, mounted on the wall at adult eye level. A large mouthpiece stuck out in front. The receiver was on a hook at the left. On the right was a crank. To place a call, I lifted the receiver, gave one long crank and waited for the operator. Of course, first I had to be sure no one else was on the party line using their phone. There were quite a few other families, each with their own ring. Ours was two shorts, a long, and a short. Each family heard all those rings, and mostly, ignored them. But, since people didn’t call anyone unless it was necessary, (and nothing secret as anyone could lift their receiver and listen in), there weren’t too many rings to ignore during the day.
Party lines. Do you remember them? After I was married with children in high school, we still had a party line. There were only two homes, and we didn’t hear each other’s ring, but we had to check to be sure no one was on the line by listening in before making a call. As happens, sometimes the other party doesn’t want to relinquish their turn. That happened once when our kids had the high school musical cast party in our basement. Two of the kids had to call home to get parents to collect them. You guessed it—that was when our party would not hang up. My husband had to drive them home instead. And, when we requested a private line, they turned us down—not enough free numbers or free lines or some such.
I mean, two homes using one line and two numbers. With today’s proliferation of phone use, our family with two parents and five children would have had seven cell phones plus one house phone.
Oh, yeah—cell phones. Wireless phones they used to call them when we got our first one. It was as big as a large wall phone and looked the same. (Needed room for those batteries.) But we were boaters, our grandson was expected, we wanted to hear the news. We did—and he is now fifteen. My, how time flies.
Now hubby and I each have a cell phone that doesn’t do anything but take and answer calls. But all our kids and grandkids have the phones that do everything but wash the dishes. They can’t get along without them.
Which is something I read in the latest Forbes with their profiles of thirty business people under thirty who are changing the world. One young woman said, “If we lived in a world that somehow didn’t have cell phones, I’m not sure how I would have been able to do it.” But, looking at her profile and business, I think she’d have managed. Her business is changing every-day objects into power sources to light up her parents’ native country of Nigeria. If you can imagine it—a soccer ball, kicked around for an hour will provide three hours of light. Fifteen minutes of using her jump rope provides two hours of light.
Now, that sounds truly remarkable, possibly impossible. But stop to think—twenty years ago, did you ever expect to take pictures with your telephone? Read e‑mail? Even play games?