Monday, March 03, 2008



Alexander Graham Bell’s birthday is today, Monday, March 3, b. 1847, the same year as my grandpa! (Yes, my father’s father was born in 1847. In fact, he fought in the American Civil War - on the losing side. I am two generations removed from the Civil War, and I’m only 51. My dad’s dad was 70 when my dad was born. He died when my dad was 9. And my dad was 40 when I was born.)

On March 10, 1876, Alexander Graham Bell spoke the first words into a telephone:

"Mr. Watson -- come here -- I want to see you."

Wiki says he (Bell - not my dad, or my grandpa) refused to have a telephone in his study, because it intruded on his true work in science. The inventor of the telephone said it was an intrusion and didn’t have one in his office. Hellooooo!

We have gotten rid of a land line in our house (it was an intrusion), but we each have a cell phone. This model put out for Verizon customers is pretty low tech now compared to state of the art models, like the next one, below it, with a slide-out keyboard. But we always get the cheapest model. Yeah, my charger connector is broken, so we have to charge Don’s and switch batteries every few days. Jeepers.

I mostly talk with my kids and Don on my cell. (Why don’t we call it a mobile like the rest of the world? Same reason we don’t buy into the metric system? We’re stupid?) What did we do before cell phones, picking someone up at the airport? It’s fun to send text messages and pictures too. It’s great having all my Contacts on speed dial. Owee, Boots has two numbers, one’s her cell, and one’s her land line.

This picture on mine was one Don took of one of his sunflowers. I love it when Lesley pix messages a pic of herself at Central Park or in front of the Empire State Building. Or just smiling at work. Ah, two flowers.

Speaking of NYC, I’ll never forget September 11, 2001. Well of course. But I mean that at noon that day, I was supposed to meet my friend for lunch. After what happened that morning, we decided to cancel our plans. But then I wanted to be with other people. So I walked across campus anyway, to the International Center, and there was my lunch friend watching CNN on the ceiling mounted TV in the lobby, along with a hundred other people.

In that 10 minute walk, everywhere I turned, crouching under trees, walking slowly on sidewalks, sitting on building steps, every single student was on a cell phone. It was eerie, knowing what everyone was talking about, even though I couldn’t hear the words. They were saying the same thing I was saying to my kids and to Don on my cell: "Are you there? Come here -- I want to see you."


SwedeHart said...

eeewwww, that is erie! It's so funny that you have gotten rid of your land line.... we did the opposite, we got rid of our cells! We now use pay phones like we did before when we need to make a call away from home. We're so old fashioned;D

lesleyanne said...

this made me laugh and cry. telephones, probably the world's most important invention. it has connected us with the entire world, new medicine, the internet, people we never would have met otherwise. i don't know where i'd be if i couldn't talk to you every day, hear your voice from 1300 miles away.

look how short my hair is! i'll send you another pic this weekend after i get my 'stylin' new haircut. ooh! instant gratification.
i love you.

Drowsey Monkey said...

I don't have a cell anymore, land line all the way for me. The 1950s is where I live ;)

But in serious times I know having access to a cell is probably a good thing.

freefalling said...

I'd be pretty hard pressed to live so far from my family without a phone.
I don't think I could do it. It's like having them with me all the time.

Isn't it silly - we live so, so far away from the US - yet on Sept 11, we did the exact same thing you did - rang our family to make sure they were okay. When we felt threatened we instinctively gathered our loved ones close.

Loring Wirbel said...

I'm not gonna comment on the land-line vs. mobile debate (still use both) or the 9/11 observations (I was in Atlanta, being evacuated from CNN Center, experiencing the same things), but will only observe that this little essay has some of the most amazing leaps of logic and connectedness I've seen in a long time. This should be in Harper's or something.

Have you ever read Avital Ronell's book: "The Telephone Book: Technology, Schizophrenia, and Electric Speech"? She wanders down some of the same paths as you, and the book look's like McLuhan's "Media is the Massage" (sic), but your essay is far more readable than Ronell's dense stuff.

Ginnie said...

Just think of what you and I have experienced with phones in our lifetime, Ruth...and Auntie Sue as well (though I'm guessing she's never used a cell phone!). The technological leaps every year are astounding. And yes, Boots has 2 phone #s. It makes much more sense to let go of the land line for only cells, but our computers are dependent on the land line! Our land line, however, is not set up for long distance calls. You know that Donica always goes for the newest gadgets that come out. She's way ahead of my own curve. I'm still in the dark ages of basic cell-phone technology. But it still works and that's all that matters whenI want to call YOU!

Loring Wirbel said...

Ginnie, you said our computers are dependent on the land line. My 80-year-old parents are always being chided by their 90-year-old computer-repair neighbor, "Damnit, get broadband! If you're going to be sending photos and watching anything on YouTube, you have to get broadband!" Now, granted, broadband service from DSL still requires a phone line, while cable-modems require cable, but since you can use a broadband connection to get voice-over-IP voice service, there is no reason in creation to use an analog phone line for Internet connections -- with bundles, it's even cheaper to do it by broadband. (I keep trying to tell my folks that, but they listen to me about as much as they listen to their neighbor Earl.)

Ruth said...

Swedehart, I was wondering the other day if there are many phonebooths around any more. I know there are plastic phone boxes. I can totally understand not wanting a cell phone. We wanted to be accessible to our kids, and also to have easy access to help on our long country drive to and from work.

Ruth said...

Les, I never would have let you move away if we didn't have telephones. :(

I can't wait to see your new haircut! A pix message AND regular camera pic to moi sil vous plais?

Ruth said...

Drowsey, I don't know about in Canada, but here we don't have auto address ID when we call 911 (emergency) on cell phones. So it's one good reason to keep a land line. I'm not sure if this is changing.

And do you have a princess phone? :)

Ruth said...

Letitia, I often think how difficult it was for men and women during wars to go great lengths of time without communication, just wondering if a soldier was still alive, for instance. I don't know how com is for soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan now, but I'm guessing email and chatting might happen fairly quickly and frequently.

And yeah, the reality is that we are all vulnerable to crazy attacks anywhere, so I'd say you weren't silly, even if you were far from NYC.

Ruth said...

Oh man, Loring, that book looks interesting! Haven't read it, no. Did you read hers on Stupidity? I love the topics, but I'm afraid her books would be like so many on my shelf, I don't have the brain power or velocity to stick with them. But her scholarship is really intriguing, especially since her advanced degree is in comp lit, I think?

And your parents' neighbor Earl sounds pretty savvy for a geezer! Did I ever tell you Don's 80-year-old parents play video games?

Ruth said...

Boots, does D have one of the slide-out keyboards? Blackberry? I know she has a hefty one, whatever it is, I've seen it in her hand.

Loring Wirbel said...

Ask Don what his folks' favorite video games are. I can see everyone gathered around for Guitar Hero or Rock Band. (Abby is on Guitar Hero III and was proud to have reached the level where "all the Dead Kennedys songs are unlocked." And she got Rock Band last weekend and was all excited that "they actually have New Pornographers songs!"

Ruth said...

Loring, if I knew who the hell those bands were, I'd be impressed! Leave it to you to keep up with your daughter's music. Only Peter can tell us just how far that is in Guitar Hero.

I don't think either Grandma or Grandpa (Don's parents) played Guitar Hero at Thanksgiving, if I recall. But they all got headaches along with the rest of us. They HAD to share that. They play Bubble Bauble and Mr. Mario. My mother-in-law actually had thumb surgery a while back. She SAYS it's because of arthritis. But we all know it's video games. Originally, she played a mean Burger Time.

Don said...

I miss the phone booths, and the mail boxes on the corner too, but I do like the convenience of mobiles/cells. Let's start calling them mobiles and see if we can start a grass-roots movement and change the way America thinks!

Don said...

Ruth, that is Bubble Bobble and Dr. Mario, along with Burger Time

Ruth said...

Hehe, I can forgive myself for spelling Bobble wrong. But "Mr." Mario??

Loring Wirbel said...

Ruth, you know Neko Case, the country-folk singer, right? She's the darling of NPR, PBS, Dave Letterman, etc. The New Pornographers are her "secret rock band side project", and the only Canadian super-group of note. Highly recommended. As for Dead Kennedys, that's more historical, they were the big political Berkeley punk band of the early 80s fronted by Jello Biafra, who ran for governor a couple times.

Ruth said...

Loring, nope, I'm a music ignoramus. I YouTubed them:

Neko Case reminds me a little of Alison Krauss. I like her.

New Pornographers, I watched "Challengers" - nice.

Dead Kennedys, definitely punk!

Bob Johnson said...

Only have a cell because of work, leave work, leave cell, it is ringing again right now, and it's my day off, sucks, by the way that is very cool your Grandpa fought in the civil war.

Rauf said...

The Civil war was just two generations ago. Abraham Lincoln or Andrew Johnson had the latest technology available to them. Human mind and body was the same. no changes there. Last 20 years saw giant leaps in technology with the same human mind.

We say mobile here, i have no mobile Ruth, can't afford it and it is a nuisance. i don't even know how to hold a moible and talk, i travel alone most of the time and my family and friends want me to carry a mobile, i have resisted so far.

Some australian TV network has been conducting a kind of survey in the US. One of the questions was when 9/11 happened.
Can you tell me the date when 9/11 happened ?
The answers are quite shocking. Some say August 9th some say october 11.

Ruth said...

Bob, well I imagine it wasn't very cool for my grandpa. :|

Ruth said...

rauf, I don't think most people would consider 123 years two generations. I looked "generation" up on, and it says roughly 30 years is a human generation. So that would normally be four since 1865. This generation of young people has grown up with this technology, and I don't think they even realize the difference, how could they?

I imagine your friends and family would be happy if you carried a mobile on your travels. But I wonder if you'd get reception anyway? I mean in the forest? I can understand your not wanting to carry one. People here resist them too. In fact my boss just got one for the first time, mostly for his family.

Those interviews by Charles Firth and Julian Morrow are pretty funny. The one about 9/11 is here: Funny and appalling!

Bob Johnson said...

Ruth I have always been a civil war nut, talked about it before in one of my posts.

Maybe cool wasn't the right word, Im sure your Grandpa was very proud of his tour of duty as my Dad was in the second world war as he was a liberator on a bike near the end of the war.

Ruth said...

Bob, I think you sent me the wrong post? It was a nice one of last August's total lunar eclipse.

Ah, knowing you are a Civil War buff the word "cool" makes sense. I don't think my grandpa's tour lasted very long, he was pretty young. In fact, I think he was a drummer boy for some of it, because he was pretty young.

Liberator on a bike, now that sounds cool.

Bob Johnson said...

Lol, Ruth, it was on the very bottom of that post, my security guard is a history buff and we talked about the civil war.

Ruth said...

Bob, oh! :)