pexels-photo-594452.jpegIn 1876 Alexander Graham Bell patented the telephone. The tech has grown and changed greatly over the past 140 some years.

Sources: Alexander Graham Bell Patents the Telephone

Wikipedia. Telephone

In the late seventies, most of my friends had home phones, but some people in rural areas had “party lines” which means several homes shared a single line. My best friend and I, probably around nine or ten years old, were once interrupted by one of her neighbors telling us to get off the phone so someone else could use it.

I was married before I got my first cell phone. It was a big, important, expensive purchase and my husband and I were very, very careful to only use it rarely and briefly.

I resisted the idea of a smartphone for many years. My husband bought me one for Christmas sometime in the early 20-teens. I was definitely not ready for such a complicated, expensive piece of technology, but since it was a gift I learned how to use it. I was annoyed that the “phone” part of the device was just one of many aps.

Now, in 2018, I almost always have my phone close at hand and I depend on it for instant internet access, taking pictures, and being reachable to my husband and kids. I respectfully turn it off when I’m in class, but doing so makes me a little uneasy. I don’t want to miss a call from my kids’ schools if something important comes up. I’d also like to be able to google whatever comes to mind during lecture, but although that might seem like a good idea, it’s too easy to find myself chasing something white and fluffy down a rabbit hole and lose track of what my teacher is saying.


Do you remember getting a home phone for the first time? Do you remember your first cell phone or your first smart phone? Do you still have a landline?


9 thoughts on “Development: The Telephone

  1. We too had a party line when I was young. Even though it was the mid-80’s at that point, we were in a rural enough area to where that was still a thing. My parents dumped the party line however shortly after I started grade school for two reasons: 1) there had been a couple minor emergencies that my mother hadn’t been about to contact Dad about because the neighbor was gabbing away with a friend and 2) I was turning into a social butterfly and was gabbing with friends a lot on the phone.
    We didn’t get call-waiting until I was a senior in high school. The first time I heard the beep of another call coming in, I was talking with the admissions counselor at the college I ended up going to. I thought the beep was him starting a recording device and so I chose my words carefully after that and made sure to speak clearly. It was actually my mother calling from work, wondering how my interview had gone (not realizing I was still talking with the guy!)
    In college I was in charge of the phone bill since I had arrived in the dorm first and had set it all up. That meant I was also in charge of the calling plan and I became quite the expert in jumping to different carriers to best suit the calling habits of three college girls. Twenty-five cents a minute during the day, but only five cents after 7:00!
    I’ve actually only had a cell/smart phone for about three years. As an adult, I had moved to an area just as rural as where I’d grown up and cell reception was spotty at best. The same was true at my parents’ house, so why have a cell phone?
    That all changed with three events: 1) the proliferation of cell towers in increasingly remote areas within the past five year 2) My sister-in-law being appalled that neither her brother nor his new wife had cell phones (and so she got us some simple smart phones as a wedding gift) 3) My best friend promising me years ago that she’d only watch Star Wars if I got a cell/smart phone that I myself was paying for. She’d made this bet on the assumption that she’d never have to torture herself with George Lucas’ classic.
    Alas for her, after being on my sister-in-law’s plan for a year, my husband and I decided to stay in the 21st century. We got our own plan, upgraded our phones, and my friend meekly sat and watched the original trilogy with us in our living room (she has since become a reluctant Star Wars fan).


  2. You mean dragging a single phone on a really, really long cord from room to room on our second floor? Three kids, one phone.

    Because my Dad was a minister we had to learn telephone etiquette at a young age. We’d answer the phone politely with our family name and ask if we could take a message. I came to realize that nobody ever calls you with good news at 3 am. A phone ringing in the middle of the night is always bad news. Most people experience that occasionally, a minister’s family gets it every month or so.

    But that doesn’t really answer your question. I remember a party line in rural Iowa. I remember when it was a long distance call from one end of Chicago to the other. I remember our first cell phone (yeah, a phone number to give the baby sitter.) I remember having two phone lines, one paid for by my employer, so I could check long running computer jobs at night and on weekends.

    Here’s a pre-cell memory. In some live theater venues, doctors would give their pager to an attendant and be given a coat-check like number. If their pager went off, the number would be displayed on a small screen over or beside the stage.

    Still have a landline, because the single thing that cellphones do the worst is function as a phone. Also, if you have a wired phone at home (i.e. not a portable phone) the landline will work pretty much indefinitely during a power failure.

    Cellphone calls at 3 am are usually a wrong number (slurred voice saying “Jimmy, is that you? Jimmy!?!”)


  3. One other thought. When I was in High School there were no group chats or texts. If we (our group of friends) wanted to go to a movie, negotiating what movie, which theater, and what time, could take quite a while. We’d often have people calling each other back and forth until someone would say “Let’s just all meet at Bill’s house” (a friend with a really nice den who’s house was pretty centrally located.)

    We’d all head there and would figure out what we were seeing and when. Or (just as often) we’d get wrapped up playing ping pong and talking, and completely forget about the movie.

    Communication patterns for teenagers are so incredibly different now than they were pre-cellphone / pre-internet.


  4. In my earliest years, we had one phone in one room. I remember my mother telling me about party lines, but because my parents owned a couple of businesses, they always paid extra to have a private line – they grew used to the idea of having a phone available at their leisure. As I grew older, we eventually (ourselves) ran extensions throughout the house, but never to the bedrooms until the early ’80s. I also remember my parents telling me that, not too long before I was born, that they actually had to *rent* phones from AT&T (Those wonderful Western Electric Bakelite and steel monstrosities – Even the ‘Princess’ phones could be used to hunt and bludgeon small game).

    In the early ’80s, I learned a lot about how phones worked, and my school friend and I started ‘Moscow Bell’ – We would crawl under houses and run wires for friends and family. We called it ‘Moscow Bell’ because my friend picked up a box of old surplus WE rotary phones – mostly Princess, but a few of the ‘standard ones – but they were all the same shade of red.

    I haven’t tried it lately, but you used to be able to dial numbers by hanging up quickly and letting up again. This was essentially what the rotor did on rotary phones. It would cut off the power for a brief moment for every ‘click’. So, if you wanted to dial a ‘3’, you would just tap-tap-tap the ‘hook’ button. History note: When you see people with old-timey phones bang on the hook repeatedly in order to try to get a single, this was often the easiest way to try and get an operator (10 taps on the hook were a ‘0’)

    Another neat thing about phones. Standard POTS(Plain Old Telephone Service – Seriously, that’s what it means) or PSTN (Public Switched Telephone Network) lines run about 40-50 volts DC when at rest. When a phone ‘rings’, a signal comes across the line as a 90-volt *AC* burst that would activate the bell assembly in the phone. I used to test to see if a phone was live by touching the wires against my tongue, as 50 volt DC is uncomfortable, but not damaging. This stopped the one time when I was testing a phone wire on my tongue and someone called the number. The blister was a reminder of how stupid that generally is. 🙂


  5. I still have a landline (although it’s now a Voice-over -IP line through my cable company, not a true landline). I like have a stable phone that doesn’t rely (as much) on over-the-air signals, so when I need to make a long call with friends or family, I generally try to do it from the landline.


  6. No I do not know what a landline is. And no we do not have one. I’m 10, lost my phone awhile ago. And I DO want a phone please (IPhone), And yes, other kids my age have phones. Example: Megan

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Bunny!
      We did activate a new cell phone yesterday for you to use, but you’re right, it’s not “your” phone, it’s a family phone. You will eventually have your own, when you’re a little older.
      (Bunny is ten years old.)


  7. I still have the first memory of a cell phone. My Dad was in the military, so he had a phone in case he was recalled for whatever reason, but I literally never saw this phone ring. This “Zack Morris” style phone, as big as my forearm, was just a permanent paperweight. At the ripe ole age of 8, in 1995-96, I was astounded by this mystical technology that seemed to never be needed.

    But then, through a series of unfortunate events for this young 20-ish year old woman who had broken down on the side of the road in the middle of Nowhere, North Carolina. My father, being the honorable and humble man that he is, pulled over and asked if the young lady needed any help. Of course, she declined, but when my dad offered to allow her to use this ninja method of technology, that cost ungodly amounts to call someone to come to her rescue, she reluctantly said yes.

    After thanking my father profusely, we carried on with our day as if nothing had happened, other than having to pay a lot of money.

    My first cell phone had to wait until my teens, when I was a ‘working teenager’, had a car, and thought of myself as someone who NEEDED a cell phone. Unknowingly to me, I did not, also, I could not afford the monthly bill. Did this stop me? Of course not, my friend and I went half-sies on a cell phone plan, and there I was, with my Sprint flip phone, that I spent more time looking for pirated ringtones then using it for its intended purpose.


  8. I remember getting a home phone for the first time, and it was both weird and cool. Weird that they would let a kid like me have a land line, and cool because phone. I was very hung up on my phone number, getting one that felt right and rolled well. We still have a landline because I know from experience how durable those are. I live in Los Angeles and a lot can fail when we have an earthquake, but the land lines always still work. It’s worth 60 bucks a month to me to know that in an emergency I can absolutely call someone for help.

    My first cell seemed like a toy and it was ages before I was used to carrying and using one. My first one my mom picked up for me at McDonald’s. It was a little blue plastic flip thing. Can you even imagine McDonald’s having a cell phone promotion now?


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