I’m So Sorry, Dad, I Had No Idea

Sunday night we had friends over after Eli was in bed. We were talking and laughing and eating things that were bad for us. The topic of conversation drifted to technology. How everyone’s grandparents wouldn’t talk on the phone for long, a remnant of a time when phone time was expensive and precious. “I remember calling ahead collect when we were going to my grandparents’,” Misty said, “and they wouldn’t accept the charges. The call was our signal we were on our way.”

That drifted to other foibles of technology. Dad didn’t have touch-tone dialling until sometime in the 1990s, shortly before they got cable. Touch tone dialing cost an extra sixty cents a month, or thereabouts, over pulse dialing. Ha ha ha, we all laughed. How silly.

And then I realized: in twenty years Eli will be with his friends and saying, “Guh, my parents. They still have a landline!”



  1. on February 24, 2006 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Hey, my mother still doesn’t have touch-tone dialing TO THIS DAY.

    Still costs extra out there in da stix.

    You think a dialup modem will drive you crazy? Imagine a 33.6 dialup modem set to pulse dial, and the ISP modem number starting with 778.


  2. on February 24, 2006 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    But, yet we have more in common with those that are younger than us than those that are older than us. Interesting break points in technology.

  3. on February 26, 2006 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Oh my goodness.

    As far as I know, the only reason Dad and Mom have touch-tone dialling now is that the phone company stopped giving them the choice.

  4. anonymous
    on February 27, 2006 at 9:28 am | Permalink

    Not by way of defense, but of observation. Cost is always an issue (resources are finite, wants are infinite; I have more wants now than I can satisfy), especially for the parsimonious among us, but more important is one of philosophy. As George Smiley observes in *The Spy Who Came in from the Cold*, people often confuse means and ends. Many of us born (or who came of age) under a mushroom cloud share a view of technology that is simultaneously pragmatic and leery. Neither luddites, nor technophobes, nor technophiles, we ask whether the technological means help us achieve a desired end, whether the end is worth the price in a variety of venues, whether other means offer equal or superior results, whether deprovements are likely, and whether anything’s to be gained by being first to market. Some of us trust people more than technology, and prefer to live as simply and self-reliantly as possible. So, unless there’s a need (like the need for tone rather than pulse when adding home-based internet access), we prefer proven reliability to unnecessary technological innovation.

  5. anonymous
    on February 27, 2006 at 9:30 am | Permalink

    Probably because we’ve lived their lives already, so to speak, but not the lives of those as old as we hope to become. They’re easier to understand and therefore we have more in common with them.


  6. on February 27, 2006 at 6:58 pm | Permalink

    Well, it’s not just a function of age, though. There seems to be a certain personality type that reaches out for new innovations and ways of doing things.

    My grandfather embraced every new gadget that came down the pike, and I’ve no doubt if he were alive today he’d have his own website. His daughter, my mom, got her A+ certification several years back. She manages her and her husband’s website. Aaron’s dad owns more computers than socks, it seems, bc he’s constantly upgrading.

    My friend who teaches French in NJ–only a few years older than I–is afraid to leave a comment in my LJ for fear she’ll “mess something up.”