I'm not sad to see the phone fading away

So much has changed — and it's for the better.

bell ad from 50s

Sure, it's good to hear someone's voice on the telephone, but on the other hand, text messages are nice, too. (Photo: Bell Telephone System)

Years ago, after I had moved out of my parents' house, got married and had kids, my father would call me every now and then and say "CALL YOUR MOTHER!" Later, when call display was introduced, I joked that we didn’t need it; I always knew when my mother was calling. It was inevitably at the most inappropriate time when I was doing something else.

For many years, I had an architectural practice and then a development business, with clients and customers calling me at all hours to scream about something. I hated the sound of the phone ringing. It was almost always going to be someone yelling at me, or my mom, or clients and customers, or credit card and phone companies looking for money.

I came to dread the phone; it never rang with good news. I kept a land line around because with two elderly moms, we needed it, but they are gone now. The only time the phone rings now is for tax collection scams, duct cleaners (because we have radiators) and Windows computer repairs (we have Macs and Chromebooks). But my wife Kelly isn't ready to give it up.

Bell ad from 60s Or, you could just text a quick message. (Photo: Bell Telephone System)

But now we have options

Texting, on the other hand, is a wonder; my kids have a completely different relationship with me than I did with my parents. My daughter is in constant contact. I had a question about coffee cups (she runs a coffee shop) and she was back to me in seconds. There's far less imposition, no ringing bell or urgent need to deal with it instantly. You send a message and you get an answer.

Short messages from phone

Hearing a voice is lovely, but texting my daughter makes me feel connected in a different way — far more connected than I ever was to my mom, where communication was a formal "get up, get the phone, stand around in the kitchen and listen."

The funny thing looking back at this phone ad from 60 years ago is that everything they say is a short sentence. But it never was; you had the stuff that came before and the stuff that came after. Nobody ever called you and just said "Happy birthday." Now, you really can just deliver the message, and don’t need to bury it in an onion of layers.

I believe that I'm a lot closer to my kids than I was to my parents, and I think a lot of it has to do with technology; I'm not in their face, I'm not calling them to tell them to call their mother; we are both just a text or a tweet away.

The copy on this Bell ad is pretty remarkable. They are trying to make the phone emotional rather than practical, and of course to sell long-distance service.

"For without the telephone, time and space would rush between us. And many of us would be so much alone."

Today, that time and space has disappeared; we are always connected, never really alone. I like it a lot better this way.

<a href="Which do you prefer, voice or text?">Which do you prefer, voice or text?</a>

Lloyd Alter ( @lloydalter ) writes about smart (and dumb) tech with a side of design and a dash of boomer angst.

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