Compassion for Our Senior Citizens

Younger citizens of the Twenty-first Century Information Age sometimes forget the plight of older people, who grew up in a quaint, more innocent age.

  • Telephones were:
    • Optional
    • Stationary
    • Manual
    • Analog
    • Shared
  • Telephones were working and available for use when:
    • You lifted the handset from its cradle
    • You listened in the earpiece
    • You heard a distinctive buzzing sound (dial tone)
    • Other people were not already talking
  • Telephone numbers were:
    • Letters, and numerals, designating your “zone,” and account.
    • Listed by people’s names and addresses, in big paper directories, or personal lists
    • Entered one number at a time, in order, by:
      • Inserting a finger in one of 10 holes on a spring-loaded metal “dial”
      • Rotating the finger clockwise in the plane of the dial until it came to a metal stop
      • Releasing the dial to rotate back to its original position, closing a switch the proper number of times to transmit that number.
      •  Entered for you by a person called a “telephone operator”
  • Telephone charges were:
    • Included in a monthly fee for nearby phones
    • Extra for phones at arbitrary distances
    • Reduced for shared “party” lines.
  • Telephone calls were:
    • Targeted to a telephone number near the likely location of the person you were calling
    • Completed when a bell in the receiving telephone rang, and another person picked up the handset.
    • Successful when the person you were calling was there.
    • Possibly completed when someone else answered and wrote a message to the person you were calling
    • Not completed if
      • The phone was out of service
      • No one was near the phone,
      • People near the phone did not pick up the handset.
      • The phone was in use, (indicated by a pulsing buzzing sound)
    • If not completed:
      • No one knew you had called.
      • You had to call back

Given this brief context for our mature citizens, you might have more compassion for the otherwise laughable mistakes they make with modern telephone technology and etiquette.


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