Sunday, July 25, 2010


We're sorry, the number you are calling is out of service. Please check the number and dial again. Thank you for calling NYNEX.

I've been away a long time. NYNEX is dead. So, too, it seems is God. I tried calling Dial a Prayer for some company. No answer. Just, "You again!?" and then a click. I don't get it. I think I need a new telephone.

I looked at telephones recently, and they're tiny, ugly little things that bore me. I held one to my face and I got nothing from it. There was no teenage boy's worried voice saying, "Dad, I got a girl in trouble." No, "Happy birthday, Grand dad." No, "Oh, nothing much, how about you?" No nothing but the feel of plastic that has never held a couple of lives in suspense and wonder and perhaps in terror. So I looked around for other phones, bigger ones with lives in their wires and mettle in the ear piece, tone in the speaking-tube, vibrancy in the bells. I want a phone with voices in it, a phone with spirits alive and buzzing. I want a phone I can hold and behold. My mind is ringing.

I love the line in Tennessee Williams' play, The Glass Menagerie, "My father left the family some years ago. He was a telephone line man who fell in love with long distance. He sent us a post card from Mexico, saying: "Having a wonderful time."

I've ridden my bike on a dirt road with my dog running beside me as we tried to beat a freight train; and I've waved at areoplane pilots flying overhead; and I've stood gazing at crowds from hilltops; but I never really wanted to talk to those people. They were fine where they were, me in my place. Shortening the distance between us would have destroyed the romance of them. I like 'em more where they are, which is away from me. If need be, I guess I could have phoned them up and said hello. I like the idea far more than I like the reality. Telephones sometimes look good. Really beautiful.

In the 1870s, two inventors Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell both independently designed devices that could transmit speech electrically (the telephone). Both men rushed their respective designs to the patent office within hours of each other, Alexander Graham Bell patented his telephone first. Elisha Gray and Alexander Graham Bell entered into a famous legal battle over the invention of the telephone, which Bell won.

The telegraph and telephone are both wire-based electrical systems, and Alexander Graham Bell's success with the telephone came as a direct result of his attempts to improve the telegraph.
When Bell began experimenting with electrical signals, the telegraph had been an established means of communication for some 30 years. Although a highly successful system, the telegraph, with its dot-and-dash Morse code, was basically limited to receiving and sending one message at a time. Bell's extensive knowledge of the nature of sound and his understanding of music enabled him to conjecture the possibility of transmitting multiple messages over the same wire at the same time. Although the idea of a multiple telegraph had been in existence for some time, Bell offered his own musical or harmonic approach as a possible practical solution. His "harmonic telegraph" was based on the principle that several notes could be sent simultaneously along the same wire if the notes or signals differed in pitch.
By October 1874, Bell's research had progressed to the extent that he could inform his future father-in-law, Boston attorney Gardiner Greene Hubbard, about the possibility of a multiple telegraph. Hubbard, who resented the absolute control then exerted by the Western Union Telegraph Company, instantly saw the potential for breaking such a monopoly and gave Bell the financial backing he needed. Bell proceeded with his work on the multiple telegraph, but he did not tell Hubbard that he and Thomas Watson, a young electrician whose services he had enlisted, were also exploring an idea that had occurred to him that summer - that of developing a device that would transmit speech electrically.
While Alexander Graham Bell and Thomas Watson worked on the harmonic telegraph at the insistent urging of Hubbard and other backers, Bell nonetheless met in March 1875 with Joseph Henry, the respected director of the Smithsonian Institution, who listened to Bell's ideas for a telephone and offered encouraging words. Spurred on by Henry's positive opinion, Bell and Watson continued their work. By June 1875 the goal of creating a device that would transmit speech electrically was about to be realized. They had proven that different tones would vary the strength of an electric current in a wire. To achieve success they therefore needed only to build a working transmitter with a membrane capable of varying electronic currents and a receiver that would reproduce these variations in audible frequencies.

First Sounds - Twang

On June 2, 1875, Alexander Graham Bell while experimenting with his technique called "harmonic telegraph" discovered he could hear sound over a wire. The sound was that of a twanging clock spring.
Bell's greatest success was achieved on March 10, 1876, marked not only the birth of the telephone but the death of the multiple telegraph as well. The communications potential contained in his demonstration of being able to "talk with electricity" far outweighed anything that simply increasing the capability of a dot-and-dash system could imply.

First Voice - Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.

Alexander Graham Bell's notebook entry of 10 March 1876 describes his successful experiment with the telephone. Speaking through the instrument to his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, in the next room, Bell utters these famous first words, "Mr. Watson -- come here -- I want to see you."

[Check out this link for some eye-straining thumbnail pics of telephone history.]

Neil Postman complains that the proliferation of mass and instantaneous communications did nothing to raise the level of conversation itself, just made it possible to spread further and faster the usual banalities of before. Many become passionate in this argument regarding the Internet, and blogs in particular. But who cares what people say? What on Earth would make it another's business if our conversation is about telephones or the latest cell phone? That we can talk, this way or that, and have the freedom to do so because it suits us privately, in our own desire to communicate with each other, is a blessing. Someone, his name escapes me at the moment, brought up the idea that mass travel over-threw the "dictatorship of distance." Planes, trains, automobiles make it possible for us to go and do, even if we don't go anywhere for reasons approved of by others. Even if we use up scarce resources in our pursuit of our own lives. I wouldn't care if my carbon foot-print crushed hippies like a dinosaur crushing plants. I like that I can have a conversation with you. It's more important than living a life of communal purity in a hovel with the starving. Modernity is beautiful. Hello, you. Come here, I want to see you.
From the moment Alexander Graham Bell yelled those famous words, "Come here Mr. Watson, I want to see you!", the business of providing telephone service was off and running. Soon after that fateful day of March 10, 1876, Bell and Watson were demonstrating the instrument.

In July of 1877, the Bell Telephone Company was formed by Gardiner Hubbard. The Charles Williams shop made the first telephones under the direction of Watson, who in effect was the Research and Development Department of the company. Alexander Graham Bell opted out of the day-to-day managing of the company and travelled to England, staying for over a year. By the end of 1877 there were three thousand telephones in service.

In mid-1878, Hubbard named Theodore Vail, the Superintendent of the Railway Mail Services as the new general manager of the Bell Company. This one decision alone would become lead to the basic foundation of what would become the giant monopoly, the "Bell System." The Bell company had 10,000 phones in service at this time.

Tom Farley knows a lot about telephone history. Here is some of it.

Tom Farley's Telephone History Series

On March 10, 1876, in Boston, Massachusetts, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Thomas Watson fashioned the device itself; a crude thing made of a wooden stand, a funnel, a cup of acid, and some copper wire. But these simple parts and the equally simple first telephone call -- "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you!" -- belie a complicated past. Bell filed his application just hours before his competitor, Elisha Gray, filed notice to soon patent a telephone himself. What's more, though neither man had actually built a working telephone, Bell made his telephone operate three weeks later using ideas outlined in Gray's Notice of Invention, methods Bell did not propose in his own patent.


In 1729 English chemist Stephen Gray transmitted electricity over a wire. He sent charges nearly 300 feet over brass wire and moistened thread. An electrostatic generator powered his experiments, one charge at a time. A few years later, Dutchman Pieter van Musschenbroek and German Ewald Georg von Kleist in 1746 independently developed the Leyden jar, a sort of battery or condenser for storing static electricity. Named for its Holland city of invention, the jar was a glass bottle lined inside and out with tin or lead. The glass sandwiched between the metal sheets stored electricity; a strong charge could be kept for a few days and transported. Over the years these jars were used in countless experiments, lectures, and demonstrations.

In 1753 an anonymous writer, possibly physician Charles Morrison, suggested in The Scot's Magazine that electricity might transmit messages. He thought up a scheme using separate wires to represent each letter. An electrostatic generator, he posited, could electrify each line in turn, attracting a bit of paper by static charge on the other end. By noting which paper letters were attracted one might spell out a message. Needing wires by the dozen, signals got transmitted a mile or two. People labored with telegraphs like this for many decades. Experiments continued slowly until 1800. Many inventors worked alone, misunderstood earlier discoveries, or spent time producing results already achieved. Poor equipment didn't help either.

Balky electrostatic generators produced static electricity by friction, often by spinning leather against glass. And while static electricity could make hair stand on end or throw sparks, it couldn't provide the energy to do truly useful things. Inventors and industry needed a reliable and continuous current.

In 1800 Alessandro Volta produced the first battery. A major development, Volta's battery provided sustained low powered electric current at high cost. Chemically based, as all batteries are, the battery improved quickly and became the electrical source for further experimenting. But while batteries got more reliable, they still couldn't produce the power needed to work machinery, light cities, or provide heat. And although batteries would work telegraph and telephone systems, and still do, transmitting speech required understanding two related elements, namely, electricity and magnetism.

In 1820 Danish physicist Christian Oersted discovered electromagnetism, the critical idea needed to develop electrical power and to communicate. In a famous experiment at his University of Copenhagen classroom, Oersted pushed a compass under a live electric wire. This caused its needle to turn from pointing north, as if acted on by a larger magnet. Oersted discovered that an electric current creates a magnetic field. But could a magnetic field create electricity? If so, a new source of power beckoned. And the principle of electromagnetism, if fully understood and applied, promised a new era of communication.


In 1821 Michael Faraday reversed Oersted's experiment and in so doing discovered induction. He got a weak current to flow in a wire revolving around a permanent magnet. In other words, a magnetic field caused or induced an electric current to flow in a nearby wire. In so doing, Faraday had built the world's first electric generator. Mechanical energy could now be converted to electrical energy. Is that clear? This is a very important point.

The simple act of moving ones' hand caused current to move. Mechanical energy into electrical energy. Although many years away, a turbine powered dynamo would let the power of flowing water or burning coal produce electricity. Got a river or a dam? The water spins the turbines which turns the generators which produce electricity. The more water you have the more generators you can add and the more electricity you can produce. Mechanical energy into electrical energy.

Faraday worked through different electrical problems in the next ten years, eventually publishing his results on induction in 1831. By that year many people were producing electrical dynamos. But electromagnetism still needed understanding. Someone had to show how to use it for communicating.

In 1830 the great American scientist Professor Joseph Henry transmitted the first practical electrical signal. A short time before Henry had invented the first efficient electromagnet. He also concluded similar thoughts about induction before Faraday but he didn't publish them first. Henry's place in electrical history however, has always been secure, in particular for showing that electromagnetism could do more than create current or pick up heavy weights -- it could communicate.

In a stunning demonstration in his Albany Academy classroom, Henry created the forerunner of the telegraph. In the demonstration, Henry first built an electromagnet by winding an iron bar with several feet of wire. A pivot mounted steel bar sat next to the magnet. A bell, in turn, stood next to the bar. From the electromagnet Henry strung a mile of wire around the inside of the classroom. He completed the circuit by connecting the ends of the wires at a battery. Guess what happened? The steel bar swung toward the magnet, of course, striking the bell at the same time. Breaking the connection released the bar and it was free to strike again. And while Henry did not pursue electrical signaling, he did help someone who did. And that man was Samuel Finley Breese Morse.


In 1861 Johann Phillip Reis completed the first non-working telephone. Tantalizingly close to reproducing speech, Reis's instrument conveyed certain sounds, poorly, but no more than that. A German physicist and school teacher, Reis's ingenuity was unquestioned. His transmitter and receiver used a cork, a knitting needle, a sausage skin, and a piece of platinum to transmit bits of music and certain other sounds. But intelligible speech could not be reproduced. The problem was simple, minute, and at the same time monumental. His telephone relied on its transmitter's diaphragm making and breaking contact with the electrical circuit, just as Bourseul suggested, and just as the telegraph worked. This approach, however, was completely wrong.
Reproducing speech practically relies on the transmitter making continuous contact with the electrical circuit. A transmitter varies the electrical current depending on how much acoustic pressure it gets. Turning the current off and on like a telegraph cannot begin to duplicate speech since speech, once flowing, is a fluctuating wave of continuous character; it is not a collection of off and on again pulses. The Reis instrument, in fact, worked only when sounds were so soft that the contact connecting the transmitter to the circuit remained unbroken. Speech may have traveled first over a Reis telephone however, it would have done so accidentally and against every principle he thought would make it work. And although accidental discovery is the stuff of invention, Reis did not realize his mistake, did not understand the principle behind voice transmission, did not develop his instrument further, nor did he ever claim to have invented the telephone.

In 1830 the great American scientist Professor Joseph Henry transmitted the first practical electrical signal. A short time before Henry had invented the first efficient electromagnet. He also concluded similar thoughts about induction before Faraday but he didn't publish them first. Henry's place in electrical history however, has always been secure, in particular for showing that electromagnetism could do more than create current or pick up heavy weights -- it could communicate.

In a stunning demonstration in his Albany Academy classroom, Henry created the forerunner of the telegraph. In the demonstration, Henry first built an electromagnet by winding an iron bar with several feet of wire. A pivot mounted steel bar sat next to the magnet. A bell, in turn, stood next to the bar. From the electromagnet Henry strung a mile of wire around the inside of the classroom. He completed the circuit by connecting the ends of the wires at a battery. Guess what happened? The steel bar swung toward the magnet, of course, striking the bell at the same time. Breaking the connection released the bar and it was free to strike again. And while Henry did not pursue electrical signaling, he did help someone who did. And that man was Samuel Finley Breese Morse.

In 1837 Samuel Morse invented the first workable telegraph, applied for its patent in 1838, and was finally granted it in 1848. Joseph Henry helped Morse build a telegraph relay or repeater that allowed long distance operation. The telegraph later helped unite the country and eventually the world. Not a professional inventor, Morse was nevertheless captivated by electrical experiments. In 1832 he heard of Faraday's recently published work on inductance, and was given an electromagnet at the same time to ponder over. An idea came to him and Morse quickly worked out details for his telegraph.

As depicted below, his system used a key (a switch) to make or break the electrical circuit, a battery to produce power, a single line joining one telegraph station to another and an electromagnetic receiver or sounder that upon being turned on and off, produced a clicking noise. He completed the package by devising the Morse code system of dots and dashes. A quick key tap broke the circuit momentarily, transmitting a short pulse to a distant sounder, interpreted by an operator as a dot. A more lengthy break produced a dash.

Telegraphy became big business as it replaced messengers, the Pony Express, clipper ships and every other slow paced means of communicating. The fact that service was limited to Western Union offices or large firms seemed hardly a problem. After all, communicating over long distances instantly was otherwise impossible. Yet as the telegraph was perfected, man's thoughts turned to speech over a wire.

In 1854 Charles Bourseul wrote about transmitting speech electrically in a well circulated article. In that important paper, the Belgian-born French inventor and engineer described a flexible disk that would make and break an electrical connection to reproduce sound. Bourseul never built an instrument or pursued his ideas further.


In the early 1870s the world still did not have a working telephone. Inventors focused on telegraph improvements since these had a waiting market. A good, patentable idea might make an inventor millions. Developing a telephone, on the other hand, had no immediate market, if one at all. Elisha Gray, Alexander Graham Bell, as well as many others, were instead trying to develop a multiplexing telegraph, a device to send several messages over one wire at once. Such an instrument would greatly increase traffic without the telegraph company having to build more lines. As it turned out, for both men, the desire to invent one thing turned into a race to invent something altogether different. And that is truly the story of invention.
Telephones, among any number of other great inventions, are a gift to us from Modernity. Those who complain about the low level of conversation should really stfu. Not that I'd answer their calls anyway. I don't have a phone. I'm still looking for the right one.

In the 1890s a new smaller style of telephone was introduced, packaged in three parts. The transmitter stood on a stand, known as a "candlestick" for its shape. When not in use, the receiver hung on a hook with a switch in it, known as a "switchhook." Previous telephones required the user to operate a separate switch to connect either the voice or the bell. With the new kind, the user was less likely to leave the phone "off the hook". In phones connected to magneto exchanges, the bell, induction coil, battery and magneto were in a separate bell box called a "ringer box." In phones connected to common battery exchanges, the ringer box was installed under a desk, or other out of the way place, since it did not need a battery or magneto.

Cradle designs were also used at this time, having a handle with the receiver and transmitter attached, separate from the cradle base that housed the magneto crank and other parts. They were larger than the "candlestick" and more popular.

The Model 102 telephone (B1 mount/set) was Western Electric's first widely distributed telephone set to feature the transmitter and receiver in a common handset. Prior models had been of the "candlestick" type, which featured a transmitter fixed to the base, and a receiver held to the ear. The 102 was manufactured between 1927 and 1929.

Now that you know at least as much about telephones as I do is not hardly the point here. The point is that we can look at them as gifts of Modernity and be more aware of our blessings. I don't have a telephone because I don't like the alienation of the medium. I prefer talking to people face-to-face, and in lieu of that, I prefer the Internet so I can sit and pause for as long as I need to to think of what I wish to say next. The shape of telephones, though, the beauty of the machines, the art of the techne, that appeals to me deeply. Hope it appeals to you as well.

Update: I am not one to promote anything the New York Times does, as a rule, but here, in spite of that, is a piece on telephones I think you'll like, even if it comes from the dhimmi arsehole Times.

March 18, 2011

Don’t Call Me, I Won’t Call You

NOBODY calls me anymore — and that’s just fine. With the exception of immediate family members, who mostly phone to discuss medical symptoms and arrange child care, and the Roundabout Theater fund-raising team, which takes a diabolical delight in phoning me every few weeks at precisely the moment I am tucking in my children, people just don’t call.
It’s at the point where when the phone does ring — and it’s not my mom, dad, husband or baby sitter — my first thought is: “What’s happened? What’s wrong?” My second thought is: “Isn’t it weird to just call like that? Out of the blue? With no e-mailed warning?”
I don’t think it’s just me. Sure, teenagers gave up the phone call eons ago. But I’m a long way away from my teenage years, back when the key rite of passage was getting a phone in your bedroom or (cue Molly Ringwald gasp) a line of your own.
In the last five years, full-fledged adults have seemingly given up the telephone — land line, mobile, voice mail and all. According to Nielsen Media, even on cellphones, voice spending has been trending downward, with text spending expected to surpass it within three years.
“I literally never use the phone,” Jonathan Adler, the interior designer, told me. (Alas, by phone, but it had to be.) “Sometimes I call my mother on the way to work because she’ll be happy to chitty chat. But I just can’t think of anyone else who’d want to talk to me.” Then again, he doesn’t want to be called, either. “I’ve learned not to press ‘ignore’ on my cellphone because then people know that you’re there.”
“I remember when I was growing up, the rule was, ‘Don’t call anyone after 10 p.m.,’ ” Mr. Adler said. “Now the rule is, ‘Don’t call anyone. Ever.’ ”
Phone calls are rude. Intrusive. Awkward. “Thank you for noticing something that millions of people have failed to notice since the invention of the telephone until just now,” Judith Martin, a k a Miss Manners, said by way of opening our phone conversation. “I’ve been hammering away at this for decades. The telephone has a very rude propensity to interrupt people.”
Though the beast has been somewhat tamed by voice mail and caller ID, the phone caller still insists, Ms. Martin explained, “that we should drop whatever we’re doing and listen to me.”
Even at work, where people once managed to look busy by wearing a headset or constantly parrying calls back and forth via a harried assistant, the offices are silent. The reasons are multifold. Nobody has assistants anymore to handle telecommunications. And in today’s nearly door-free workplaces, unless everyone is on the phone, calls are disruptive and, in a tight warren of cubicles, distressingly public. Does anyone want to hear me detail to the dentist the havoc six-year molars have wreaked on my daughter?
“When I walk around the office, nobody is on the phone,” said Jonathan Burnham, senior vice president and publisher at HarperCollins. The nature of the rare business call has also changed. “Phone calls used to be everything: serious, light, heavy, funny,” Mr. Burnham said. “But now they tend to be things that are very focused. And almost everyone e-mails first and asks, ‘Is it O.K. if I call?’ ”
Even in fields where workers of various stripes (publicists, agents, salespeople) traditionally conducted much of their business by phone, hoping to catch a coveted decision-maker off-guard or in a down moment, the phone stays on the hook. When Matthew Ballast, an executive director for publicity at Grand Central Publishing, began working in book publicity 12 years ago, he would go down his list of people to cold call, then follow up two or three times, also by phone. “I remember five years ago, I had a pad with a list of calls I had to return,” he said. Now, he talks by phone two or three times a day.
“You pretty much call people on the phone when you don’t understand their e-mail,” he said.
Phone call appointments have become common in the workplace. Without them, there’s no guarantee your call will be returned. “Only people I’ve ruthlessly hounded call me back,” said Mary Roach, author of “Packing for Mars.” Writers and others who work alone can find the silence isolating. “But if I called my editor and agent every time I wanted to chat, I think they’d say, ‘Oh no, Mary Roach is calling again.’ So I’ve pulled back, just like everyone else.”
Whereas people once received and made calls with friends on a regular basis, we now coordinate such events via e-mail or text. When college roommates used to call (at least two reunions ago), I would welcome their vaguely familiar voices. Now, were one of them to call on a Tuesday evening, my first reaction would be alarm. Phone calls from anyone other than immediate family tend to signal bad news.
Receiving calls on the cellphone can be a particular annoyance. First, there’s the assumption that you’re carrying the thing at all times. For those in homes with stairs, the cellphone siren can send a person scrambling up and down flights of steps in desperate pursuit. Having the cellphone in hand doesn’t necessarily lessen the burden. After all, someone might actually be using the phone: someone who is in the middle of scrolling through a Facebook photo album. Someone who is playing Cut the Rope. Someone who is in the process of painstakingly touch-tapping an important e-mail.
For the most part, assiduous commenting on a friend’s Facebook updates and periodically e-mailing promises to “catch up by phone soon” substitute for actual conversation. With friends who merit face time, arrangements are carried out via electronic transmission. “We do everything by text and e-mail,” said Laurie David, a Hollywood producer and author. “It would be strange at this point to try figuring all that out by phone.”
Of course, immediate family members still phone occasionally. “It’s useful for catching up on parenting issues with your ex-husband,” said Ms. David, who used to be married to Larry David, the star of “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” “Sometimes when you don’t want to type it all, it’s just easier to talk.”
But even sons, husbands and daughters don’t always want to chat. In our text-heavy world, mothers report yearning for the sound of their teenage and adult children’s voices. “I’m sort of missing the phone,” said Lisa Birnbach, author of “True Prep” and mother of three teenagers. “It’s warmer and more honest.”
That said, her landline “has become a kind of vestigial part of my house like the intercom buttons once used in my prewar building to contact the ‘servants quarters.’ ” When the phone rings, 9 times out of 10, it’s her mother.
There are holdouts. Radhika Jones, an assistant managing editor at Time magazine, still has a core group of friends she talks to by phone. “I’ve always been a big phone hound,” she said. “My parents can tell you about the days before call waiting.” Yet even she has slipped into new habits: Voice mails from her husband may not get listened to until end of day. Phone messages are returned by e-mail. “At least you’re responding!”
But heaven forbid you actually have to listen — especially to voice mail. The standard “let the audience know this person is a loser” scene in movies where the forlorn heroine returns from a night of cat-sitting to an answering machine that bleats “you have no messages” would cause confusion with contemporary viewers. Who doesn’t heave a huge sigh of relief to find there’s no voice mail? Is it worth punching in a protracted series of codes and passwords to listen to some three-hour-old voice say, “call me” when you could glance at caller ID and return the call — or better yet, e-mail back instead?
Many people don’t even know how their voice mail works. “I’ve lost that skill,” Ms. Birnbach said.
“I have no idea how to check it,” Ms. David admitted. “I can stay in a hotel for three days with that little red light blinking and never listen. I figure, if someone needs to reach me, they’ll e-mail.”
“I don’t check these messages often,” intoned a discouraging recorded voice, urging callers to try e-mail. And this is the voice-mail recording of Claude S. Fischer, author of a book on the history of the telephone and more recently, “Still Connected: Family and Friends in America Since 1970.”
“When the telephone first appeared, there were all kinds of etiquette issues over whom to call and who should answer and how,” Dr. Fischer, a sociology professor at the University of California, Berkeley, told me when finally reached by phone. Among the upper classes, for example, it was thought that the butler should answer calls. For a long time, inviting a person to dinner by telephone was beyond the pale; later, the rules softened and it was O.K. to call to ask someone to lunch.
Telephones were first sold exclusively for business purposes and only later as a kind of practical device for the home. Husbands could phone wives when traveling on business, and wives could order their groceries delivered. Almost immediately, however, people began using the telephone for social interactions. “The phone companies tried to stop that for about 30 years because it was considered improper usage,” Dr. Fischer said.
We may be returning to the phone’s original intentions — and impact. “I can tell you exactly the last time someone picked up the phone when I called,” Mary Roach said. “It was two months ago and I said: ‘Whoa! You answered your phone!’ It was a P.R. person. She said, ‘Yeah, I like to answer the phone.’ ” Both were startled to be voice-to-voice with another unknown, unseen human being.

Yalla, Dag

Hey, here, long time later, is a bit about our president and his desire for a real telephone.

WASHINGTON -- Turns out President Obama would like a phone upgrade.

The president, in an unscripted moment with donors in Chicago, was talking about the need to innovate in technology.

"The Oval Office, I always thought I was going to have really cool phones and stuff," he said during a small fundraising event at a Chicago restaurant. "I'm like, c'mon guys, I'm the president of the United States. Where's the fancy buttons and stuff and the big screen comes up? It doesn't happen."

The president made his off-the-cuff remarks with donors as he took questions and after reporters had been ushered out of the event. But the question and answer session was piped back to Washington by mistake and into the press briefing area where a few reporters were still working late.

Read more:

I find myself sympathetic for once. He should have a cool telephone. So should we all. One with the 'ring of truth'.

A gentle reminder that my book, An Occasional Walker, is available at the link here:
And here are some reviews and comments on said book:


Dag said...

Well, hello to you!

xandohsa said...

Good stuff, Dag! -- I note the story about Reis is in there twice. I enjoyed the piece very much!

Dag said...

I'm glad you like this piece. It makes it all the more fun for me to have someone say so.

And thank you for pointing out the redundant paragraphs. Computers make redundancy all too easy, and I go for easy too often. Now it's far better to read. Thanks again.

The reference to the audience is from a post by Richard Fernandez at Pajamas Media. He writes about technology as magic, at least in the minds of those like me, tech-idiots who simply marvel at our modern wonders and who have no idea how the stuff works or even how it comes about. I appreciate our Modernity, and thus, knowing next to nothing about the technical wonders that make it possible, I write on occasion about the aesthetics of Modernity, giving myself and others at least that kind of insight. If I can't grasp the Truth of it all, I try to grasp the Beauty.

So, to those who make this world good for me and others, thanks to you all too.