Thursday, February 25, 2010

Feb 22/10: Squares

Feb 22/10: Squares, originally uploaded by susanvg.

It's interesting to think how technology changes but some vocabulary doesn't. Having grown up with rotary phones, I still think of dialling a number. I'm not sure what one would say now with all the push buttons.

When I was very young we had a country place with a very old telephone. It was a box with a regular receiver and a handle which was cranked to make a bell ring. No one had a separate phone line. There were two kinds of party lines: those whose ring you could hear and those whose ring you didn't hear. Our number was 31 ring 1 4 which meant we were on exchange 31 and our ring was one long ring followed by four short ones. If you wanted to call someone on the same exchange you simply cranked the handle causing it to ring long or short depending on how far you turned the handle. To call someone on a different exchange you had to go through the operator (one long ring). If we visited friends who were on the same exchange we could get our phone calls.

As I have grown up, I have seen phone numbers go from letters and numbers (Hunter 7051) to standardized 7 digit numbers and now to 3 digit area codes followed by 7 numbers. Along with that has come more complex phones with more varied services and the loss of real people at the other end of a phone. We reach answering machines, automated replies and a labyrinth of press this for that until I sometimes hang up in frustration.

I do like my newer telephones and the services they offer, but I am not a fan of automated calls from machines, nor of the many calls I get asking for donations, requesting my participation in surveys, or offering me goods I don't want. It seems to be one of the prices of progress that others find more and more ways to invade our private spaces.

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