Brody: Telephone technology boggles the mind

Published 10:15 am Tuesday, March 5, 2019

I am thankful for all the inventions over my lifetime that make life more enjoyable, but I have to tell you there are a few inventions I don’t like or begin to understand.

The first thing I think of is the telephone.

I used to live on Key Biscayne, an island near Miami. Telephones did not even look the same then, and there was no such thing as a cellphone.

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I can take you back, way back before I even lived there. I still have friends who were related to the first settlers there, and they told me this about telephones.

There was one drugstore on the key, and the owner went to great lengths to have the Florida Power Company install a telephone in his store.

It was the only telephone on the Key even though many homes were built to have a good number of people.

The beauty of untouched growth, the immediate access to the pristine beach and the way the azure ocean water met with the constant fluffy white clouds — all caught the poetic imagination of the adventurer determined to be the first to start life on an island.

The problem was nobody used the side of the brain that thought of the necessity of the connection between making it possible to shop, to have a storefront post office, a drive-thru library and a part-time doctor all as soon as possible.

There was no school, and even the preschoolers had to be taken by a family member to the mainland.

Nobody thought of the need for a telephone.

So, for years, the drugstore owner wrote down every homeowners name and kept it by his precious telephone.

When a call came in to speak to, for example, Jack Jones, he sent one of his sons “who all worked there” on his bike to tell Jack he had a call.

At that point, Jack had to come to the drugstore and take his call.

Imagine if a teenager wanted to gossip or a lonely person wanted to talk awhile. Well, it rarely happened.

Once on your call, it had to be quick and concise.

In time, someone moved on the Key who had the money and needed a telephone maybe for business.

A new one was installed and eventually people there were like everybody else with a private phone in their home.

Do you recall the way house phones looked at first? They are nothing like modern phones.

The first one I remembered in our home years later was black, heavy, with a round base, skinny neck and at the top a round piece into which to speak. The dial circle was on the base.

These phones sat on our table. I even remember our first telephone number: 3530W. The W meant we were on a four-party line and when any one of us four got a call, all of our phones rang.

That meant we got lots of rings which was a pain.

However, I did always know which one of us got a call, and if I was quiet and careful, I could pick up my phone and listen in on the other guy’s call.

I did this a lot when I was young until I got caught by my mother or my nanny.

I’m not good at remembering time anymore so I can’t remember when the big skinny neck phone changed to a small one that was shaped like a hot dog and sat full length on a table.

We thought it was hot stuff.

When I got my first cellphone, that was hot stuff.

That little phone had no cord.

I could pick it up and walk outside. How it worked, I’ll never know, but still, more new stuff came out.

Do you know that people have instruments they carry in their pocket that make and receive calls, take and receive messages, but that isn’t all.

Some things I will never begin to understand.

Then flat, oblong phones connect to someone named Siri.

It’s a female voice I started to say woman’s voice but who knows if she’s real and I don’t get how she is on duty 24/7 forever. And her IQ is as high as the rating goes. That female can tell the caller the answers to any question on any subject; she doesn’t even look stuff up in the dictionary.

Siri knows.

Now, how is that even a phone?

At this point, I pulled out my trusty dictionary, and I looked up the meaning of telephone.

It said, “An instrument for reproducing sound at a distance.”

To be specific, “One in which is converted into electrical impulses for transmission by wire.”

Now isn’t that a far cry from where someone envisions a way to connect people?

Our imaginations have grown to go from a boy on a bike on an island to tell Jack Jones he has a telephone call at the drugstore to poor overworked Siri who will step into our lives and answer any question we may have.

The whole thing boggles my mind.

The view from the mountain is wondrous.

Jean Brody is a passionate animal lover and mother. She previously lived in Winchester, but now resides in Littleton, Colorado. Her column has appeared in the Sun for more than 25 years.