Sunday, July 20, 2014


I was sorry we sort of messed things up when you called. I only meant each one to say “Merry Christmas,” but it didn’t work out that way. So I’m going to put in a $1.00 bill to help foot the bill. When I knew you were calling I had the little timer put on top of the phone and we were over six minutes on the line. I didn’t think of Myrtle talking at all since she’d been here this summer, but it was great and did them all so much good. I mean all of us of course – me especially. Henry remarked on the quality of your voice. Ina Dobson -- January 1, 1938

A syndicated article caught my eye: “Our telephones worked great so they have to go,” a cultural commentary by Patricia McLaughlin, which appeared in the Lewiston (Idaho) Tribune, July 13. This article expressed my sentiments exactly. (I couldn’t find this article online and the Lewiston Tribune requires a subscription to read it.)

A while back, I carried my soapbox into the kitchen, stepped onto it, and ranted away whether Mike was listening or not. In substance, I said, my voice atremble with emotion, that I find the popularity of cellphones amazing. Reception can be spotty, non-existent, and affected by the weather. Calls are apt to be dropped. Voice transmission is not good. Really – is this acceptable?

I grew up in an age when voice transmission seemed to improve constantly. Then those heavy telephones began to disappear and with the advent of electronics, so did the quality.

The cellphone fits neither ear nor mouth. In fact, the cellphone does a number of things better than being a phone, which is probably why we send those messages called texts rather than talking to one another – and I have learned to do that. As you know, the cellphone is really a hand-held computer, so with proper connection I can entertain myself with a game, read a book, listen to music, or shop online. I can even use it as a camera. But – carry on a decent telephone conversation? Maybe not.

Don’t get me wrong -- I understand the benefits of the cellphone. After all, we have no land line at our farmhouse. The line that the phone company provided for my grandmother (see conversation above from 1938) is now defunct. It’s thanks to cell service that we can communicate with the world from that location. And beyond that, I guess I’m supposed to appreciate the fact that I can be reached by anyone 24/7 -- provided, that is, that my cellphone is with me, turned on, and charged – again problematic – and sometimes more responsibility than I care to accept.

And now, the land line is disappearing and it isn’t coming back. Many of us are voluntarily dropping the land line in favor of the cellphone, and Mike and I might soon join those ranks at our town house. Why? We’re now paying for a land line in addition to cell service, and most incoming calls are solicitations and scams. For us the only hold-up is the fact that cell service is poor in our town location.

Regardless of personal preference, the handwriting is on the wall. That once excellent unit, the “land-line” telephone, is a thing of the past and it's not coming back. Back in the day, who would have thought? KW


Hallie said...

What needs to happen is a merger of cell phone and land line service so that we don't have to have one and/or the other, but instead, a single phone plan for whichever device we use. THAT should be the future!

Kathy said...

I can't say if that will happen.

When I was a youngster, the phone company (mostly Bell Telephone) maintained the lines and also supplied your phone. Then the government deemed the phone company a monopoly and forced them to diversify. That may have been right and a good thing, but phone service was never the same.

I'm afraid my imagination just isn't up to guessing what might be the next step in communication technology.

Chris said...

You're correct--phone service has never been the same since. We do still have a land line and probably always will even though we are slowly becoming more cell savvy.

Kathy said...

Oh, Chris, you will for sure be cell savvy one day soon. I'm surprised you put it off as long you did 'cause you're a pretty good tech person.