Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Incredible Vanishing Telephone

First the dinosaur, then the dodo, and soon…the home telephone. Headed for extinction.

An article recently reported more than 25 percent of American homes no longer have traditional landline telephone service. I’m not surprised – two of my daughters use cell phones exclusively as home phones. But the news still seems sad.

I missed out on old crank-‘em up style phones – with earpiece and speaking device – but we had rotary-dial telephones. We turned the dial for one number, then waited patiently for the dial to circle back into place before dialing the next. We didn’t have 911 then – even if we had, the house would have burned down before we finished dialing.

We even had “party lines,” which meant although our telephone number was unique, we shared the wires for incoming and outgoing calls with more than one household.

I still remember the telephone numbers we had when I was a boy. They consisted of a combination of letters and numbers. The first was CH (for CHarter) 9-2402, and the second was VI (for VIking) 6-9181. It was big news when the VI was replaced by its numerical equivalent, making our number 846-9181. I don’t know when area codes were officially assigned, but that was a pretty big deal, too.

Back in the 1980s, I predicted telephones would become standard equipment in cars, much like radios and air-conditioning. But I didn’t envision mobile phones we now carry everywhere. So much for my powers of prognostication.

Alas, technology continues its relentless advance. One day we’ll only see landline phones at the Smithsonian. But that’s okay. As Ecclesiastes 3:1 assures us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” The “season” for traditional telephones is nearing its end. Just as long as we still have football season!

No comments: