When I was a cub scout in Morrisville in 1953, one of my merit badge projects was to learn Morse code. Another was talking into orange juice cans connected by a piece of taut string. Although this bypassed our 4-party line, it only worked within the range of normal talking distance so we soon tired of it. I tell you this because I am preparing for the next big leap backwards in communications. I’m not an Internet guru, you understand, I’m just trying to follow my own children’s communications choices.
My suspicions were confirmed last month when a study by the Pew Research Center declared that the cellular system now carries more data than voice messages; that means more text messages than human conversations.
When I was sent away to school at fourteen, I had to write a weekly letter home on paper. I was allowed to call in an emergency, or once a month, whichever occurred first. My call usually coincided with my father’s forgetting to send my $15 a month allowance.
I miss the fun on a rainy summer afternoon of listening to Gladys Farr and Glenna Bumps whispering town gossip on our four-party line, at least until my annual attack of hay fever made that impossible.
Forty-odd years later, misguided environmentalists wanting to save trees and imagining that we would no longer need to write on paper or print anything, invented email and the postal system began delivering nothing but catalogs to burn in your woodstove.
I adopted email with pleasure, even though they didn’t teach typing at my fancy prep school. Somewhat earlier, the FCC had decided that regulating a price-gouging monopoly was old hat and phone calls dropped from several dollars to several cents, so I just began to call people I liked and talk with them. This worked well, though my Grandmother continued to answer her phone saying, “Hello, who is this? Oh, Billy, nice to hear from you. Well, I don’t want to run up your long distance bill, so good-bye,” followed by a dial tone.
My children no longer answer the expensive cellphones I provide them with, nor do they answer my emails. They don’t even text me anymore, because I haven’t figured out how to respond. I do hear monthly, however, from Verizon with a whopping bill.
My daughter is an honors student at a difficult college. I tried once to text her, and it took me thirteen minutes. My last bill showed 950 text messages on her number. At my keying speed, that would be 200 hours a month. When does she study, sleep, or go to class? She, of course, can text much faster than I can and presumably can do so while doing the other three things. According to Pew, the average young person sends 1500 messages a month… and we wonder about school quality?
So, in anticipation of the next big leap backwards in communications, I’m searching eBay for a telegraph key. Please feel free to text me with your comments