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It is unbelievable

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Short jingle, short jingle, short jingle, short jingle -- that was the sound of the telephone ringing our number when I was growing up. The rural phone line was a party line -- when it rang four shorts that meant that the telephone was for us, as our number was 6704. One of our neighbors on the same line had number 6711. That meant when you called their number you cranked the ringer on the wall phone one long and one short. The long was a longer crank or the ringer.

Often when the phone rang, there were several receivers that went up to listen in on the conversation.

Those on the line did not like it when kids got on the phone and played with the phone.

When a call was to be made to someone on another line, you had to call central or the operator by cranking a long and giving the operator the number that you wanted. When a long distance call was made you went through the same procedure and the operator would put the call through to another operator in the distance town.

Few long distance calls were made as it cost too much and even when you did make one, it might be extremely difficult to understand each other. We were fortunate to have a telephone as many people did not have one or their service was not as good as what we had.

Thinking back on it, most likely it was about the late 1950s when we no longer had the crank phone. That was long after I left home and was an adult. Many readers remember using those wall phones.

Now they are antiques and often are worth much more than they were when they being used. Other readers have no concept of using a phone of this type on a rural party line.

Many of those early years, we did not have electricity. Young people can not imagine a world without TV. We enjoyed listening to programs on the radio when we could. There were some special programs on the radio.

I can remember people talking about being able to see people on the air waves. It was a real treat when TV came into a common usage with the black and white pictures. We did not have a TV in our family until I was in college.

In recent years, most homes have had several phones. A large number of homes had more than one line, with the children having a line of their own. Now nearly everyone is carrying a cellular phone. Every where you look, someone is talking on their cellular phone. Even a large number of children have their own cellular phone.

The trend is now in many homes to do away with the land line telephone and only use the cellular phones. Many of these families have cellular anyway and to save money and to make long distance calls, they are using the cell phone. Certainly many things have changed since the invention of the telephone.

I had heard of the capability of being able to see each other on the computer via the use of the Internet, but until recently did not have any experience with this communication technique.

Recently, I was at home and was talking to and seeing my cousin who was visiting in South America. Certainly, this is unbelievable for me coming from a generation of rural telephones on a party line.

With my laptop computer there is a microphone and a camera. Skype.com was downloaded and that gave me the capability to communicate with someone else who has the same capability.

On the computer the number of total people are shown that is on at that time, which range from 7 to more than 150 million. Remember this is world wide.

Phone calls can also be made with Skype for 2 cents per minute. Before I had gotten on Skype, my cousin phoned me from South America -- for only 2 cents per minute.

The only thing is that Skype dominates the phone number on the computer. With each phone number a Skype icon is shown, encouraging a person to use Skype to make the call (for 2 cents per minute).

With Skype, no one can contact you, unless you invite them or accept them -- unless you set it up so that any one can reach you. Having to have an invitation gives a greater amount of privacy.

Now we are able to visit and see our family members in Arkansas and to visit with other cousins. This is certainly a great way to communicate with others. This is a long ways from the party line.

It has been going from the party phone line where it was often difficult to communicate to the Skype that is now available where we do not only talk with each other, but we can also see each other. The changes in technology in a relative few years has been unbelievable.

It is great to visit with others using this form of communication, which is being used by millions.

Leonard Ernsbarger
Leonard At Large