Tag Archives: Old School

How to Use a Phone… Possibly

28 Jul

The powerful force that is iPod Nano is having trouble with the intricacies of his or her feature set. I wade in with a cautionary tale about escalating phone service turf wars and possibly, a little practical advice…

iPod Nano –

I’ll have to admit up front that I’m a little unfamiliar with most of these terms. I did pick up “Phone,” “does” and “INTERNET,” but beyond that you might as well have been speaking Esperanto for all the sense it made to me.

I’m constantly amazed by the variety of communication options the youth of today have at their disposal. (Well, not “constantly.” I do take a little time off from my amazement now and then, usually to do “something for me.” “Something” usually entails a nap, a glass of Scotch or a Scotch-related nap.)

When I was younger, we were limited to alternating weekday use of the local party line and some makeshift tin can-and-string phones. The adults (who actually paid the rent on the line) had the line tied up day after day, talking to each other about gout remedies, the new (and unmarried) woman who had moved in down the hall, which percentage of lye would remove stains but not skin or hair, whether or not the Kaiser was “full of it” and so on.

If my friends and I wanted to have a long, private conversation without having to look at each other, we would turn to our old standby, the tin-can-o-phone. This gave us the chance to speak uninterrupted for the most part. Occasionally rival tin-can operators would cut our string or attach one of their own strings to our pre-existing network with the intent to hijack the conversation(s).

We’d retaliate by grafittiing the nearest alleyway with disparaging rumours about their incredibly small coverage area or insinuating that usage of their tin-can system reflected poorly on the “tied-in” individuals and was quite possibly an affront to God. (Most things were in those days, and those who argued this “fact” tended to be labeled “affronts” the fastest.)

As more and more people sought to add their own string to these networks, a greater number of rivals began operating in the area. They would undercut our string system with offers of fatter, more secure string or additional cans placed in convenient and semi-private areas.

Tensions ran high, causing line snappagesĀ in major boroughs and wreaking havoc on our semi-private lives. A few kids came across some hemp, which was a major breakthrough thanks to its longevity and potential smokability.

The hemp looked to put most of us out of business but Karen Judson’s parents de-regulated the industry by throwing out every manner of thread, yarn and twine in their garage one afternoon. Small startups tied on to hemp lines, gradually bleeding the system of its precarious exclusivity.

We all raced against the inevitable, devolving into a series of small-time turf wars predicated on “strand thickness” and “can portablility.” The first kid who realized you could transmit of heavy-duty fishing line was a millionaire by age 15. The young entrepreneur who discovered that a tomato paste can could do the same job as a #10 (with no signal degradation or noticeable volume drop) sold out to Jacob Bell’s authoritarian mother for an undisclosed amount of coinage and chewing tobacco.

The rise of private phone ownership soon sank our beloved industry. We began to communicate with each other through a mixture of indecipherable hand gestures and blind ads in the local paper. Our parents enjoyed their newfound freedom, which allowed them to find out the latest on their siblings’ mostly illegitimate children without having to suffer through 20 minutes of corn medication recommendations or a post-potluck recipe exchange.

So, to answer your original question: yes. The internet IS amazing!

Sincerely,
Clifton L. Tanager

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