It’s been about 15 years since Mrs. Brad and I got rid of our landline phone due to persistent telemarketers and our realization that no one would call us on it.
We had been using our cell phones for years when we literally unplugged our home phone.
Like 99% of Americans, we don’t miss landlines, but sometimes, when I’m particularly melancholy, I think back to the days long before cellphones and realize there’s a certain romance in the olden days. fixed telephones. The old landline days, before persistent telemarketers became a thing.
It may just be a hazy memory, but there are things we’ve lost with the move to 100% mobile phones.
Mysterious speakers. I never had caller ID on my landline (for much of my life caller ID didn’t exist). The result was a mystery that’s probably inconceivable to Gen Z: the phone was ringing and you didn’t know who it was. Maybe a friend of yours? Maybe (in my case) one of your sisters’ friends? Maybe your school? In a house with several children (four in my case), there was always a rush to answer the phone to see who it was. A mystery!
Know the numbers of people. How many phone numbers do you know? For me, the answer is zero because, like you, everyone I call is listed in my contacts. Otherwise, I type their number once and then add them to my contacts. But I bet you can recite your home phone number when you were a kid. You still know it! Think of all the phone numbers you remember when you had to dial them. When I was a sportswriter, there were probably 100 phone numbers (from family to friends to coaches to random sources) that I could dial from memory. Now? There are zero. All this memory space is now occupied by passwords.
Decide how long to wait before hanging up. This was especially true before answering machines. You call someone’s house and the phone rings. And rings. And rings. Do you hang up after five rings? Eight? Ten? I was taught to hang up after four, which seems impatient. Now that’s no longer a problem. You access voicemail after the number of rings the person has chosen.
Dialing challenges. Comedian Louis CK has a bit in which he jokes that he didn’t like people who had an 8, 9 or 0 in their phone number because they had to be dialed and it took too long . A dial! You had to put your finger in a hole and spin it, then let it come back before dialing the next number.
Wrong numbers. You sometimes get the wrong numbers now, but it’s almost always because someone changed their number. It used to be that you dialed the wrong number and someone said, “You have the wrong number. Every once in a while you’d redial it because you thought you dialed wrong and you got the same person, who would be irritated that you called back. Oh, the good old days of fake random numbers.
Now we no longer need to remember numbers or dial our phones. We rarely get the numbers wrong. We always know who is calling us.
It’s a much better world and we wouldn’t go back. But you have to admit, telephone dials were quite an interesting piece of technology.
Contact Brad Stanhope at [email protected].