I'm on the phone for work every day, but apparently telephone calls died in 2007. I don't miss phone calls at all -- I never answer a call from an unknown number, and when I do have to call someone I generally feel bad for interrupting them. Texting has numerous advantages, not least of which is that it's less disruptive because it's asynchronous.

The phone call always was an invasive form of communication, so perhaps we shouldn't be surprised that as soon as a plausible substitute presented itself we grabbed it. What was the very first phone call, on March 10, 1876, if not an urgent human demand? "Mr. Watson," said Alexander Graham Bell, "come here--I want to see you." That Thomas Watson, situated in the next room, would comply was a given, because Bell was his employer. For the next hundred years, phones continued to boss people around. A loudly ringing telephone demanded its owner's immediate attention because you never knew who it might be. It could be the president! Or news that you'd inherited $1 million from a relative you'd never heard of! Or (God forbid) your teenager wrecked the car and was in the hospital! Octogenarians still tend to respond to a ringing landline with terrific urgency, risking hip fracture as they lunge to answer it. ...

The telephone's rule was absolute until the mid-1980s, when the rising popularity of answering machines and caller ID began to undermine it. Baby boomers wielded these tools against their telephones like a lion tamer's whip. If it was important, the caller could leave a message just as if they weren't there, a deception their World War II generation parents could never countenance. The advent around the same time of call waiting similarly made human agency a deciding factor in whether you were available to talk. Sometime around 2010, my then-teenage daughter was trying to call a friend. Something's wrong, she said. This phone has gone berserk. She handed it to me. I listened, then explained patiently what a busy signal was. She'd never heard one before.

0 TrackBacks

Listed below are links to blogs that reference this entry: Who Misses Phone Calls?.

TrackBack URL for this entry: http://www.mwilliams.info/mt5/tb-confess.cgi/9109

Comments

Supporters

Email blogmasterofnoneATgmailDOTcom for text link and key word rates.

Site Info

Support