Today, Apr. 25, is National Telephone Day and I am feeling somewhat nostalgic. I am reflecting on my usage of this important communication device invented by Alexander Graham Bell. I remember my first telephone. It was a white Princess model purchased from Bellsouth. It sat on my nightstand next to my bed. I remember my parents and I going to our local shopping center where there was a Bellsouth store. In the store were a variety of makes and models of phones much like the cell phone stores of today.
In my hone, there was one in my parents’ bedroom and one more in the kitchen. The kitchen phone was a wall mounted version with a rotary dial. For those too young to remember or those who have forgotten a rotary dial was a type of phone where you had to place your finger in an open metal circle and turn to the corresponding number you wanted. You had to do this one digit at a time and it was a slow process but that is how we dial numbers back then. Also, there wasn’t a need for area codes unless you were calling long distance.
Now getting back to my Princess model. I can’t remember if it was a rotary dial or push button because it was so long ago. All I remember is that as a teenager I had my own phone and that is what counted.
But having my own phone quickly ended when I started college and lived in the dorms. It was the phone in the hall mounted on the wall . Someone would yell loudly, “Empish, you got a phone call!” Then later it was housemates in an apartment. Depending on the situation maybe I had a phone in my room or not.
Blindness and Using a Landline
When I went blind the importance of the telephone and my ability to use it really became critical. I didn’t realize how vital vision was until I couldn’t dial a number on my landline phone. Back then cell phones were not really happening quite yet. This was back in the mid-90s. People were still using landlines. But my vision loss kept me from seeing the small numbers on the keypad. Initially I got a large print phone with high contrast. The numbers were big and pronounced. The colors were black on white for better visibility. But as I lost more vision those features were not as helpful anymore. I began to totally rely on the small, raised dot on the number 5, slowly navigating around the keypad. I started memorizing the sequence and order of the numbers to know which one to press. I also began to be more particular about my phone purchases. Touching carefully the display models in the store before walking out with one. I duplicated this same method when cell phones became popular. Carefully touching the display models to be sure I could access the buttons.
Today I am a master at my landline phone. Yes, I still use one . It has a large size keypad. A dot on the number 5. I can quickly dial numbers without even thinking much about it. I also have several cordless phones throughout my hone. All with distinctive keypads for easy dialing. I have these phones in case of an emergency because you never know when you need to quickly grab your phone. If you have a cell phone it could be anywhere in the house while you are someplace else.
Also Using a Smartphone
Now, don’t get me wrong. I love my smartphone too. Unlike older cell phone models my iPhone is totally accessible with voiceover command. I just don’t make calls much on it. The shape and design is not made for holding up to my ear. Yes, I know I can get earbuds but for some reason I have been slow to get on that train. So, I use my smartphone for other things like reading my audiobooks, listening to podcasts and watching movies. I do some text messaging and store my contacts as a digital address book. I also find it helpful as a quick and handy dictionary and spellchecker.
The evolution of the telephone has come a long way. Who would have known that our phones would become minicomputers in our pockets or purses? The advancement of technology and what we can do with it is amazing. I wonder what Alexander Graham Bell would say if he could see how far his invention has come. I know he would say more to Mr. Watson than, “can you hear me now?”
Fun Telephone Facts
Looking for some fun facts about the telephone? Read these provided by National Days Today:
- Alexander Graham Bell and his helper, Thomas Watson, made the first phone call.
- The first phone book only had 20 pages.
- Mark Twain was the first person to own a phone.
- In the United States, telephones expanded rapidly, from one phone in 1876 to 11 million phones countrywide by 1915.
- By 1910, New York Telephone had 6,000 female telephone operators.
- When Bell handed Watson the phone and said, “here, hold this,” the phrase “to put someone on hold” was named after them.
- When Alexander Graham Bell died in 1922, all telephones were silenced for one minute with respect to the inventor.
- In 1956, the first transatlantic telephone cable was laid. A telephone cable was laid across the ocean floor, reaching depths of 12,000 feet. The cable connects Canada and Scotland across the Atlantic Ocean.
- There are around 150 million telephone lines in the world, with the number growing by thousands every day.
Suggestions for Celebrating National Telephone Day
Whether you still use a landline phone or only use a smartphone, or like me use both, celebrate National Telephone Day with these suggestions:
1. Call someone today you either rarely speak to or normally communicate with via text.
2. Who is your favorite person to talk on the phone with? Give them a call today and check-in to see how they are doing.
3. Feeling nostalgic? Inquire with your grandparents about the amount of energy required to “dial” a phone — and why they disliked numbers with a lot of zeroes.
4. And if you are really feeling musically inspired and bold call a friend or loved one and sing Stevie Wonder’s iconic song, “I Just Called To Say I Love You.”