GUEST COLUMN: Telephones have become an integral part of our lives, right or wrong
Tuesday, 08 May 2012 by Mark Magnan
The telephone, arguably one of the greatest inventions of all time. But it is a bittersweet convenience, it both assists us in our daily lives, but also leads us around. Well more like we often fashion our lives around the device.
Someone said that the telephone has turned us into a sort of Pavlov's dog. I tend to agree, it beckons and we respond. But why the fascination with a piece of electronic equipment that otherwise seems so, well, controlling of our precious time.
Initially the telephone was a major breakthrough, it allowed communication with others at a distance, and became available to the general public. Once the phone system was established and it was in most homes it changed the way we lived. If the phone rang we dropped what we were doing and ran to answer it. In those days there was no way to know who was calling.
The evolution of the telephone is an amazing story itself, from the manual switchboard to the seemingly instant connection of texting today. I was able to witness the large mechanical mechanism that actually made the connections from the old rotary dial phones. It was quite interesting. Each of the many locations were assigned to a specific house, or phone number. Each rotation of the dialing phone moved the cylindrical machine eventually coming in contact with the precise link to the phone you were dialing.
As with anything convenient, someone was eventually going to find a way to use it for their gain, and such was born the telemarketer. Which in turn made the invention of the caller ID the next biggest step. This made it easy to know if it was your grandmother calling, or someone trying to sell you a subscription for something you really don't need.
In the good old days many homes had one phone, and it was permanently attached to the wall with a cord. There was very little privacy for most conversations. Large houses would have a couple of phones, just for the ease of answering when it rang. Gone are the days when it took longer than four rings for the person to pick up when you called them. Even the "modern" convenience had drawbacks.
Then came the "cordless" phone. No longer were you tethered to the wall with everyone else in the house listening to your conversation. You could wander into another room and speak without the worry of being overheard. This also allowed you to carry a handset with you most of the time, regardless of where you were in the house. That eliminated the mad dash for the sole telephone when it started ringing.
Then evolution took a major step, the cellphone. Granted the first ones were huge and required a giant battery, or needed to be connected to your vehicle. But now we had a communication device that could travel with your wherever you went, there was no place (with a few exceptions) in the land that you could not stay in touch with anyone else.
Quickly the cellphone went from a bag type, to ever smaller units. Until they were the ultimate thin and sleek object of desire for the modern man. Now they are being increasingly larger again, mostly to facilitate all of the jobs they are expected to perform for us. They are no longer simply a phone, they seem to contain many parts of our lives. They connect us not only with our phone contacts but also with news and many other areas of information. We can instantly chat with others, see what is new in the world, broadcast our current status, and much more. We can even see who wants to be our newest friend.
But with this source of information being sent to us in such high quantity we are being cut off more from the world that is immediately around us. This becomes a problem when we cannot put the phone down to operate our car. I have been run into, literally, many times in a store by someone that is so engrossed in their phone that they cannot see where they are going.
How I long for the day of the ringing bell, racing to the phone, knowing that it would be a pleasant surprise on the other end, then hearing that cherished voice. Even if I did have to stand in the hallway or sit in the middle of the living room. Oh, believe me I enjoy the convenience of the modern phone, being able to call anywhere in the land, from wherever I am at that point in time. But I am not one to be drawn into the empty fascination of the small glowing screen. Someone has to watch where everyone else is going, Pavlov's dog indeed.