Friday, July 16, 2010

Back When I Was Young

People carry phones around in their pockets -- phones that are smaller than a deck of playing cards. Before cell phones were "car phones," essentially cell phones except they were the size of a shoebox. Before that were phones that were actually attached to the wall by a cord. [Gasp!] When you called someone, you knew they were at home. It still confuses me when I call the kids only to find out that they're in a different state, or at the store, or on their way to work.

When Gary was in the seminary (about 25 years ago) the government decided that Bell Telephone was a monopoly and had to be split up. Before that day, the phone company owned the phones. People didn't own phones. You had one in your house that you were just renting from the phone company. It stayed in your house or apartment when you moved, just like your kitchen sink does. Because you had to pay an extra dollar or two a month for touchtone, we had opted to rent the rotary dial. When Bell was broken apart, the company offered to sell you whatever phone was already in your house. We bought ours simply because it was a fairly cheap deal, and I didn't want to go to some store and start hunting up a phone. (After all, the idea of buying a phone??? Who ever heard of such a cockamamie idea??) Besides, I figured the Bell phones were a solid & reliable product: when they owned the phones, they sure didn't want to be running out to people's homes making repairs.

Fast-forward 15 years. We were still using the Bell phones. (In fact, we were still using those phones until we moved into this house two years ago and chose a phone service that depends on digital signals -- thus, touchtone was required.) Philip had a friend over, and he was due home at 4:15. The guys were in the midst of a game, and Paul needed to call his mom and ask permission to stay later. "Where's the phone?" he asks. We point it out to him. He picks up the handset. His hand moves toward the wall-phone, and he pauses. And stares. He thinks a while. Finally he asks how to dial a phone. The poor fellow had never seen a rotary-dial phone in his life.

I felt like a dinosaur.


  1. I remember car phones. I saw commercials for them when I was little and was sure they were the next big thing. (I guess they were, sort of.)

    Also, my Grandpa worked for Bell Telephone.

  2. Well, if you're a dinosaur, there are an awful lot of them still walking the earth (including me).

  3. Not too long ago, I told Katie that we're the last generation that will be able to say, "I remember before the internet came along..." I know I've got nothing on you guys ;-) - but it makes me feel old, too!

  4. 20 years ago I had to use a neighbor's phone, and they still had the Bell bakelite rotary dial...I had to pause and remember how to actually "dial" a phone, which I hadn't done in a few years, LOL