Thursday, July 11, 2019

Calling up the past...

London, ON
July 2019
This photo originally shared on Instagram
I spotted this on a lamp standard in the middle of a downtown park. It got me thinking about how quickly technology moves, and how profoundly things we take for granted today will be ingloriously left behind tomorrow.

Part of me doesn't miss phones like this. Slow, ponderous rotary dials. Chunky handsets that hurt like hell when you dropped them on your foot. Ringers that made you deaf. That you were forced to answer because Call Display didn't exist. That feeling when you were out that you had to get home in time. Missed calls - and opportunities - if you didn't run fast enough.

Another part of me misses them terribly. Those slow rotary dials forced you to think about the number, the person you were calling, and what you were about to discuss. They made communication deliberate, analog, memorable. Those chunky handsets lasted forever. Digital ringtones have nothing on a real bell. You felt like being called was an occasion then.

As much as I appreciate the ability to call anyone, anytime, from anywhere, and to be reached just as easily, I also regret the erasure of lines that once divided us between on and off states. We were off the grid before that was even a thing. We had time and space to breathe before chiming back into the rest of the world. Now? It's all mixed together.

Indeed, the very concept of a "phone" has evolved radically in a relatively brief span of time. Today's phones are fully mobile, digital, connected, and app-capable. They let us share snippets of our lives in ways childhood me couldn't even dream. They open up opportunities that have allowed me and others to live better lives than would have otherwise been possible.

Somewhere in a box that's been sitting in our basement for longer than our youngest child has been around, I think we have one of these relics. I suppose one of these days I'll plug it in and see if it still works. To remind myself of where we come from, and why we sometimes need to pause to appreciate all that we have now.

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