Lack of technology leads to reflection
by Rick Watson
May 08, 2011 | 1671 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Rick Watson
Rick Watson
I used to have a phone-finder. One of those clunky square boxes that sat next to the black rotary dial telephone. The phone-finder had a column of letters from A-Z on the outside of the device, and a lever that you slid down to find the letter that correlated to the last name of the person you wanted to call.

Then you’d poke your finger in a hole in the dial and whirl it clockwise until it stopped on the finger rest. The dial sounded like you were using a tiny handsaw to cut a 2x4 each time you dialed a number. When you released the dial, it would make a clicking sound on its way back to the original position.

When my folks got our first phone, we were on a party-line which meant we shared the same telephone line with a neighbor. Each family on the party-line had a distinctive ring – one long ring for one family, and maybe two short rings for the other. There were also four party-lines, and eight party-lines which called for creative ring combinations – RING RING RRRIIIINNNNGGGGG.

Other than having a busybody neighbor that liked to listen in on conversations, we got by just fine. If you were on the phone and a neighbor needed to use the phone, they might interrupt your call to say, “I have an important call to make, can I please have the line for a few minutes?” For the most part it was always civil.

But through the years, the party-line phones faded away like rabbit ear TV antennas, and eight-track tapes. In their place came slimline, trimline, princess and designer phones made overseas. The dials were replaced by numeric keypads, and speed-dialers. Technology marched on.

Then in the late 1980’s the personal computer hit the market. The first ones cost more than a used car. IBM gave away the rights to the PC operating system software (DOS), because they didn’t think anyone would want a personal computer in their home. The only future they saw was with huge mainframe computers.

Bill Gates, on the other hand had an idea, and soon Microsoft was born. Gates’ vision made him one of the richest people on the planet.

The first PC’s were stand alone, meaning they weren’t connected to anything, but then in the early 1990’s the Internet gained in popularity and for the first time, computers could connect to the world wide web. People started emailing, sharing pictures, video, documents, music, bad jokes and urban legends. Technology marched on.

Today, my phone-finder is my iPhone. I can touch a button (or simply say the name) to bring up my contacts and not only find the name and phone number in an instant, but I see their picture, their mailing address, their email address, their birthday and shoe size if I happen to need that information.

The problem with all this technology is that when disaster strikes like it did here in Alabama, a lot of the technology that you depend on is practically worthless. I went into tech withdrawals on day two. The tornado blew down cell towers and damaged the Charter Communications cables which provide my Internet connection to the world.

A few days into the Internet outage I started twitching and seeing things out of the corner of my eyes, but after a week, I figured out how to function. I now grab my laptop and drive to the nearest McDonald’s where they have free wireless that allows me to get my email, update my blog and check Facebook for birthdays.

Now that I’ve had time to slow down and reflect, I miss the days of my old phone-finder and the whirl and click of my clunky old telephone.