Friday, 8 October 2010

"AND YOU TELL THE YOUNG PEOPLE OF TODAY THAT AND THEY WON'T BELIEVE YOU"


This punch line from the Monty Python's Flying Circus sketch entitled The Four Yorkshiremen certainly reminds me of many of my generation's experiences, though we really didn't have it that bad. The fact that parents buy their school-age children smart phones with more computing power and data storage capability than my first PC, a 386SX, still boggles my mind.

Today, people under 18 years old would sneer at my first telephone. It was a black rotary dial instrument which could only be connected to terminals in the wall by a qualified Alberta Government Telephones engineer. We had to wait at home all day for him to arrive too.

Having applied for Social Assistance in the autumn of 1974, I decided I now had enough money for my own phone. I attended a special high school in Edmonton where visually-impaired students could receive help with recorded book assignments and filling out test papers. Because my dad previously gave me just enough money for groceries and rent, I used a pay phone located a block from my room if I needed to call anybody.

I felt like a real grown-up as I began using my phone. No longer did I need to beg anybody's permission to call anyone anywhere or pay a dime a time while braving the elements for the privilege.

I soon discovered the down side of having a telephone. Strangers kept dialling my number to make appointments. Apparently, my number once belonged to a dentist who had moved or quit his practice. I'd eagerly dash over to the phone when it rang, pick up the receiver, expect to hear from my mom or somebody from my church, and I'd find myself explaining that Doctor So-and-so wasn't at this number anymore. Some callers actually became irate because I wasn't him.

As the telephone was government property that we only rented, I left the phone behind when I moved out of that cosy room in 1979. This alone must sound like something from the horse and buggy era to today's cell phone users. They can buy the model they like, set up a payment plan for their service, and use their phone anywhere. Even with corded phones, nobody has to wait all day for a government repair man to bring them an ugly black telephone and connect a few wires.

The house I bought in 2000 still has it's antique wall phone. While I can't use it to choose options in voice mail, it still works well when I talk to people. Unless I find a job that requires having a cell on my person at all times, I'll stay with my old faithful technology.

Speaking of faithful technology, I wrote When a Man Loves a Rabbit (Learning and Living With Bunnies) and Deliverance From Jericho (Six Years in a Blind School) using WordPerfect 5.1 for DOS. Click here to check out these paperbacks.