Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Old Days of Kitchen Wall Communicating

There are people in society who refuse to join the modern world. These odd folks cling to an ancient lifestyle and shun many conveniences of the 21st century. Even Amish people look at these quirky citizens and say, “Dude, you’re taking this live-in-the-past thing WAY too far!”

I am speaking, of course, about the old-fashioned people among us who insist on keeping their landline telephones.
A recent television documentary, broadcast either on the History Channel or the Cartoon Network, I forget which one, explored conditions in those prehistoric days. If you can imagine it, back then telephones were actually attached to a wall, often in the kitchen of the house.
The telephone had a wire, referred to as a cord, and you could use the phone only by remaining within the maximum radius of the cord, usually no more than six or eight feet. No, I’m not kidding! You could not have a phone conversation while walking down the street or while driving in your car, as Nature intended. If you wanted to call someone, you had to stay in the kitchen, tethered to a plastic box screwed onto the wall.

Additionally, there were wires inside the walls, which exited the house and connected to a larger set of wires on the utility poles running parallel to the street. From here, all the wires from all the other homes continued on until reaching the ugliest building in town, a windowless square monolith known as the Phone Company building. What the Phone Company did with the wires at this point, no one really knows. Being a legal monopoly, the organization was not required to, nor had any interest in, disclosing details of how it operated. However, wires crisscrossed the nation and connected each home, such that a view from outer space made it appear North America was tangled in a gigantic black spider’s web. But if you wanted to have a conversation with someone in, say, Missouri via the box on their kitchen wall, you could.
With this old-style communication system, there were no cell phone towers involved, nor were there radio signals, satellites, wifi, bluetooth or any other technology that would be classified today as “wireless.” But on the other hand, the old systems did not require charger cords. The mysterious boxes screwed to the kitchen wall somehow furnished their own electrical power, even when a thunderstorm killed power to every other item in the house. One expert quoted in the TV documentary referred to this unending source of telephone power by its scientific term: “magic.”
OK, I may be exaggerating a little about the old and mysterious landline telephones. I realize they are still around and are still being used. In fact, up until six months ago, we had one in our house, even though we hardly ever used it anymore after getting cell phones. We sold the house and moved, and the new place was not wired for a landline phone. We have not missed the ol’ wall phone at all. (Except one time, when I needed to make a call and couldn’t locate my cell phone. Thinking back, I’m pretty sure I never once misplaced the kitchen wall.)

Although more and more people are going “wireless” these days, we still have a wire problem. Most homes now have at least one kitchen drawer that has become a rat’s nest of charger cords. And no matter how many cords are shoved in that drawer, we can never find the one we need.
I was reminded of this the other day when my Amish friend, Jedidiah, said to me, “Dude, can I borrow your iPhone charger? My battery’s almost dead!”

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