Total Pageviews

Monday, January 18, 2016

When I was a kid: phones

I realized how much phones have changed when I found out my granddaughter didn’t know how to unplug a phone jack. She didn’t even know what one was! Phones have always been wireless for her.

When I was a kid back in the 60s, the telephone company had to come to your house to set up a phone. The man brought the phone for you and even put a little tab with your phone number right in the middle of the rotary dial. Current phones don't even have a spot for this.
Standard issue rotary dial telephone
Standard issue rotary dial telephone
Phones weren’t available for purchase, either. You had to rent them. Basic black was the standard. If you wanted something pretty (like this pretty pink princess phone) or a wall phone, you had to pay an extra charge every month.
Pretty in pink 'Princess' phone
Pretty in pink 'Princess' phone
When push button phones became available, there was an extra monthly charge for that, too. And for each additional phone in the house. And for having an unlisted phone number. And of course, for long distance phone calls. Caller ID was a physical impossibility: there wasn't a place for one to show up!

Cordless phones didn’t come around until late 70s or early 80s. I can’t remember the exact year: I was too busy having babies. I do remember Shasta dumped our first cordless phone into the toilet. That would make it around 1983. Although the commode had clean water in it at the time, the phone never rang true again…
The range on the first generation of phones was short, just far enough to take a bathroom break in the middle of a long conversation. I certainly don’t miss being tethered to coiled phone cords that invariably tangled. A 20' cord soon became a 3' mass of snarls.

Oh, and if your phone rang and an operator was on the other end, it meant you had a long distance call which were outrageously expensive. It took a long time to come around, but direct dialing and lower long distance rates were great improvements to the phone system.

The greatest, until the internet came around, was the fax line.

It was the 70s when the company I worked for installed facsimile machines. How wonderful, even if the name was a mouthful. Now truck drivers could get oversize and weekend trip permits transmitted and printed out over phone lines. Other uses were soon found for fax machines including sending pictures or important documents from one office to another...or jokes.

Push button dialing was a great improvement, too. No more dialing 9 to get an outside line, then waiting clickity-click-click for the dial to return to its starting point so you could dial the second number. It took forever to dial those seven digits plus nine. It was even worse for long distance calls with the extra three for area code. And if the number you were calling was busy, there was no such thing as a redial button, option to leave a voice mail, or even an option to butt into a conversation with call waiting.

Yes, life was so tough back then.

I, and about a kazillion others, celebrated the arrival of cell phones. The first ones were outrageously expensive to buy outright. And then there were the program options. It cost 45 cents a minute unless you bought a plan. That dropped it down to 35 cents/minute. If you went over your minutes, you paid 45 cents a minute for overage. No refund if you didn’t use all your talk time, either. Rollover minutes hadn’t been created yet.

Don't get me started on texting! There were no alphabet keyboards on the early cell phones. Punch the number 2 to get to the letter C, wait for it to show up, then push 3 twice to get to E. You get the idea or not. I didn’t text until actual keyboards, hard key or virtual, came out. There was an extra price for each message sent or received, too. Some phone plans still have that, but those per text charges seem to be disappearing, too.

Phones will continue to be a part of our lives, I'm sure. Just be happy that what we have now has come so far.
Naked in the Winter WindNaked in the Winter Wind
And to see how a solar-powered smartphone saved the day in 1781, read about Evie in Naked in the Winter Wind, first in the time travel series The Fairies Saga.

Amazon NITWW