March 10, 1876…despite most folks havixng no idea what happened on this day, it’s a date that has really lived in infamy. That’s the day Alexander Graham Bell spoke into his new invention and said, “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.” Today, Bell would have probably just texted his message to Mr. Watson. Or, better yet, if he actually wanted to see him, he would have “face-timed” Mr. Watson.
I would guess the telephone is not only the most prevalent and relevant invention used for communication, it is likely also the one most taken for granted. This is because of its universality, its simplicity, its longevity and its capacity to constantly reinvent and renew its role in our lives, ensuring that, indeed, it is always part of our lives…even more than the computer. True the latter has revolutionized our communications culture but not in the numbers of the telephone.
Think about it. There are still many people, especially the elderly, who will not touch a computer. Total immersion into computers is probably another generation off. Not so with telephones. It’s the one instrument that everyone living today is totally familiar with and totally at ease with using. Its basic function and operation have remained unchanged for the 140 years since Mr. Bell beckoned Mr. Watson. We all use it to directly communicate with others and we each have a unique number that facilitates the linkage. Nothing new there!
Oh, I know, you can have a bunch of apps that allow your phone to perform a gazillion other things, but if it didn’t do the basic one-on-one you’d probably be looking for something else that did.
I admit it, a lot of the new telephone technology has passed me by. If I were still working and interacting with lots of people and doing lots of things, I suppose I would be my normal adept self at knowing how to use all my apps. I’d maybe even have those hidden needle-nose fingertips that most teens use to tap out text messages at lightening speed.
But it is the antique home phone that concerns me the most. Why? Well, if you are home during the day, it wouldn’t take long for you to realized how incredibly and abominably the industry of telemarketing has grown. The fear that what is happening at home will soon happen on my cell phone gives me the shakes.
I am not exaggerating when I tell you that my home phone, on the average, rings 6 to 10 times a day with calls from telemarketers. These calls consist of live and robotic messages that solicit my purchase, my opinion, my vote, my anything. One repeatedly warns me that the Internal Revenue Service is suing me and I should call them immediately. Adding insult, for some bazaar reason, the majority of these calls come at times when I am least able or willing to answer them. It’s as if they know! But I have learned to handle some of this unwanted traffic. All the phones in the house have screens and voicing. When the phone rings I can look at the number calling and a nice lady will attempt to announce who the caller is. Consequently we let many calls go unanswered.
Meanwhile, have you noticed how obsessed the businesses we deal with, especially those linked to our money flow and internet usage, have become about the issue of privacy? There is an ongoing flow of communication from these companies explaining their respect for our privacy and how dedicated they are to making sure ours is never violated. My question is, why hasn’t this persistence for privacy been extended to the telephone? Why do so few people seem to feel about telemarketing as I do. I consider it an extreme violation of my privacy. I own my telephone. I pay for the service it facilities. It is my personal, private instrument for communication. Practically NO ONE should have access to it without my permission. Why is this so difficult a concept to understand and why aren’t more people outraged that nobody seems to care? Am I fighting a solo battle here people?!!
Can you imagine: The phone rings. Mr. Watson answers….
“Mr. Watson, today is your lucky day. You’ve won a complete solar energy package for your home. To claim your prize call this number now…”
“But wait, I thought you just wanted to see me.”