Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Will you accept the call?

In the summer 1977, when Led Zeppelin was touring the United States and Jimmy Carter was President, I was swimming on two swim teams at the age of ten trying my best to become the next Mark Spitz. Obviously that didn’t happen. But it was after those practice sessions that I would do something that I haven’t done (in the United States) for at least twenty-five years; I would use a payphone. I dialed the operator and made a collect-call to my mom to have her pick me up.

“I’d like to make a collect-call.”

“What’s your name?”

“Tom Price”

Ring Ring

Mom’s voice was instantly recognizable, “Hello, Price residence.”

“I have a collect call from Tom Price, will you accept the call?”


By 1977 Mom had become clever enough to not accept the call, knowing already what she had to do.

The one area of technology that never seems to stop changing is the field of communications. In 1977 when I called Mom on the payphone, that was my best option. If I had the means or inclination I had several other ways to get her the message, although I would have beat the message home if I simply walked the way. I could have sent a telegram or a letter. Fax machines weren’t yet commonplace. There weren’t many other options open to me. And in 1977 if no one answered the phone, I was out of luck. There was no voice mail and our first bulky answering machine didn’t appear at our house until the early 80’s.

Today communication seems to be a priority – everyone is super important and must be able to be reached at a moments notice. The first sign of this trend seemed to be the beeper or pager. These were typically only carried by the “most important people” who would wear them like they were someone so indispensable the world would stop if they couldn’t be reached. But technology didn’t stop there. Off the top of my head I can think of three new wireless communication tools, in addition to older methods, that allow you to get a message out either by voice or text. Would I have been better off in 1977 with today’s technology? I guess that depends on your perspective. If Mom missed my call in 1977, I would have had an excuse to meet up with a friend and maybe go to the White Hen or have some other adventure.

'70s song of the day: "American Woman" by The Guess Who

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