Thursday, March 4, 2010

Death of the Telephone?

My grandfather used to always complain how nothing was built to last anymore. He had seen this particularly in American cars. He worked for GM (which I am still loyal to), and saw the quality of cars drop over his lifetime. He would always lament the fact that they were made to be so disposable, and were becoming more difficult to repair on your own.

Older technology may seem more primitive to what we have today.. and usually it was. They were simple devices, made for one basic function.. but made to do that function well, and for a long time. Now, things are made to be multi-taskers, which in my opinion, makes them sacrifice quality in one area to provide us with mediocre performance in multiple areas. Nothing is designed to last too long. "Planned obsolescence". One or two years, then throw it out and buy a new one.

Where did all the repair shops go? Oh, they too became obsolete. Why fix something when you could just replace it all together?

This brings me to a piece of technology I thought we'd never dispense of.. the telephone. Yes, cell phones are probably here to stay, but what about what are now referred to as "land lines"?

When I was a kid, I remember thinking nothing would change much in households in terms of technology like it had from my Grandparent's and parent's time... with the exception of computers. Never would I have dreamed that so many people would be ditching the telephone line. I still remember learning to dial my grandmother's phone number on our kitchen rotary phone.. yes.. I caught the tail end of the rotary phone craze before moving to all touch tone phones.

In fact, my main telephone in my sitting room.. still connected to our land line.. is a chrome plated, heavy bakelite handset, Western Electric 202 telephone. It was made in the early 1920, and works better than any phone in the house!! I love the zip-click-click-click that the dial makes when placing a call.. and the metal bells chiming the call as it arrives. My God-son came over for Christmas last year and was fascinated by it. I taught him how to dial his Mom's cell phone number with the rotary dial and he thought it was the neatest thing!

Since I share a home with my folks, the majority of my incoming calls go to my cell phone. I'm not a big fan of talking on cell phones.. I find the clarity poor.. no matter what phone or service I have. It's just too choppy.. but none the less, I use the cell... and am addicted to texting people (the modern day telegram?). To make my Blackberry more at home in my sitting room of yesteryear, I devised a retro charging station for it. I took a dial-less Western Electric 302 telephone (like the one seen in the old "I Love Lucy" episodes), took the handset off, and replaced it with a HULGER penelope handset that connects right to the Blackberry.. allowing for better hearing for me, and a more comfortable and familiar way to gab on the phone. If I have to use disposable technology, I can at least give it some of the style of its classic ancestors.

As long as it is financially possible, we will be keeping our landline. I know digital phone service is just as clear, but I don't like the fact your phone goes dead when the power goes out. I want something I can depend on.. and for now.. the old phone lines give me the safe warm and fuzzy feeling.. in case of emergency.. it will still be there. I am pleased to know however, that should the day come when digital phone is mandatory.. there are new pulse to tone converters for my old WE 202... so this 80+ year old beauty will still allow me to "reach out and touch someone" for years to come.

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