New Year Outlook

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?


New Year Outlook — 2 Comments

  1. We has a par­ty line. My dad was one of three min­is­ters in town and peo­ple would call him with prob­lems. It’s hard to do coun­sel­ing with the neigh­bors lis­ten­ing in.
    For me the big thing was TV. We used to go to my par­en­t’s friend’s house to watch old movies. The sta­tion shut down after the movie. My neigh­bors got a set a cou­ple of year lat­er and we went to watch kid’s shows in the morn­ing. Our first set had a 6 inch screen and was 2 feet by 2 feet and 18 inch­es high.

  2. I remem­ber those TVs too. I’d start­ed work­ing and went with my aunt and cousin to vis­it some­one with their huge set with the tiny pic­ture. We all sat about eight feet away, peer­ing at it. For­get what the show was.

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