Phones go from luxury to everyday necessity

On rare occasions, a phone rings in my car. It is not my cellphone, which I would not answer while driving. It is the car ringing, with an area lighting up, showing a call coming in. I purchased this used car last year in January, so I am not sure if the previous owner had this hooked up, or if it is part of the car, but I don’t know the number and have never figured out how to answer.

Since it happened again last week, I was reminded about phones and how much they make life easier and harder at the same time.

The first telephone I remember seeing was at my grandpa’s house, rural Shawano. It hung on the wall, with a cone-shaped thing to speak into, and a crank on the right side. I don’t remember anyone ever calling, or anyone calling out, so with my child’s mind, I wasn’t sure if it worked or not, but I thought it was pretty special that grandpa had a phone, and we did not.

Doing some quick research on telephones, I learned the first phone was invented in 1876, by Alexander Graham Bell. However, they didn’t expand into private homes until after 1900. The telephone did not expand into my parents’ home until sometime after I was grown and gone.

Cellphones came onto the scene around 1970, and at the time they were large and cumbersome, certainly not something to be tucked into a pocket. There were no smart phones, iPhones or whatever other things are out there that I don’t even know about.

Phones are meant to hang on a wall, or sit on a desk. Phones with a crank on the side were to ring up an operator who put your call through. Later there were party lines, with a person sharing the line with a few other people, and people had to listen for a type of ring to know if the call was meant for them.

I have a thermometer on my office wall from the Maple Grove Cheese Factory; the phone number is “Marion 3501.” The cheese factory is now a private home, and calling that number won’t get you anywhere.

For those people who had a phone, back then, there was no caller ID, no answering service, and you had to remember the number of the place you wanted to call. I just got a new phone book last week, and it is a lot smaller than last year’s book, because many people have dropped their landlines to stick with a cellphone only. I have been debating that for myself, but so far, I am still a person with both landline and cell. The other night, I was talking on one when the other one rang.

When I first got a landline phone, I had one phone, and had to run from wherever other room I was in, to answer the thing. There was not as much telemarketing at that time, but still, it often was a bother to drop everything and run.

When I first moved here, I arranged to have a phone in just about every room, even the basement. With cordless phones, I always have one handy. However, the cellphone is also handy, so why do I need both? Other people tell me they don’t have a cellphone because they have no signal where they live.

I admit, I am more attached to my cellphone than I’d like to admit. I use it as an alarm, its GPS gets me to where I want to go, unless I program it incorrectly or I have no service in that area. In a pinch, I can take a picture, if I remember how. I use it for Facebook, and email; and yes, I can even text. When it rings, I know how to answer, and when they leave a message, I know how to retrieve that message.

I have numbers programmed into it, so I can call people with only a couple of clicks. I don’t need to memorize numbers anymore, except my own. I hope I don’t lose this phone or I would be a bit lost, in more than one way.

The youth of today seem to have their phones attached to their hands. I have even heard that they text 911, instead of dialing that. It doesn’t go through with a text.

Just think, phones have gone from crank to dial to buttons; from wires to wireless, and these days, I know when I am watching an old movie if the actor stops to use a phone booth.