Friday, March 7, 2014

Hello... LOL... by Ben Hazlett

In 1876 a young 29 year old said "Mr. Watson, come here, I need you."  What's so special about that?  It was the first time anyone had successfully transmitted a verbal message across wires.   In fact on this day of that year Alexander Graham Bell received his patent for what would become one of the greatest inventions of all time... for everyone except people with teenage daughters.

Can you imagine a world with out telephones now?  They have opened up possibilities to communicate with people anywhere in the world.  I recently completed a software implementation with my hospital that consisted of weekly telephone conference sessions for several months in which the participants were in conference rooms in 4-5 separate hospitals in Idaho, Oregon and Michigan.  Some people even called in to those meetings in the PJs from home!

Picture of an Old Wall Phone
Rotary Phone

Phones have definitely evolved since Mr. Bell's time.  Remember the rotary phones?  One of my patients saw a picture of one and asked me if it was for a video game.  The most significant jump for me as a kid was when we got a cordless phone. It was magical.

Some aspects of the phone industry weren't so great. Caller ID, for instance, was a stupid development. At least I thought so  at around age 12 or so.  You see, my 2 buddies and I thought we were pretty cool.  We got one of the cute girl's phone numbers and then dared each other to call her.  All of us were too scared to actually talk so we took turns calling and listening to her pick up the phone and say "hello." It took several months before I learned about this amazing new technology that could magically identify the person who was doing the calling... when I found that out I was hopeful that the girls we called didn't have it... They did, and of course we always did it at my house and we were the only Hazletts in the phone book (in a few years no one will know what a telephone book is either).

Remember Zack Morris or Magnum PI with the Cell phones the size of telephone books?  I got my
first cell phone in 2003.  It had one of those nifty antennas that you pulled up to call and it came with Tetris.  Course the drawback was that texting "hello" or "LOL" took 4 hours and cost you $300.  Now, believe it or not, I still have a DumbPhone, paying for the data package makes me cry so I haven't given in.  But look at all the things a SmartPhone can do! With the right phone you can call, text, Facebook, Skype, FaceTime, SMS, and more all from your work, school, car (hands free only please!), house, or from the middle of the forest.

With all that communication ability, I hope it means we are getting better at communicating... but that's a topic for a different blog.  We curse when we drop calls or when the picture message doesn't come through.  Instead, we should remember that it wasn't that long ago that we were still using pony's and smoke signals to communicate.

I, for one, just hope that the next time my son leaves me 24 voicemails that all say "Daddy, I love you... come home from work right now!" or when I get to sing my daughter a song from hundreds of miles away on a business trip, I will smile and think of Mr. Bell and the glorious invention of the phone.