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The future is coming at warp speed

September 18, 2014
Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican

I received a surprise e-mail today inviting me to buy the newest "must have" on the market. It's Apple's latest development, the iPhone 6.

Pictures of the compact powerhouse communicator, still called by the familiar name of "phone," brought on a case of nostalgia.

Suddenly, I was back in the Texas of my childhood, answering the heavy black phone that hung in the hallway.

Our family was on a party line with the Halls next door to the north and Mr. and Mrs. English to the south. When the strident ringing of the phone sounded twice, the call was for us. The Halls had one ring and the English family had three.

A favorite pastime for us kids was to quietly listen in to the conversations of the neighbors. Our parents, of course, were in a constant struggle to keep us from engaging in such blatant spying. Thus the phone was the center of an endless generational battle.

Fortunately, in a few years the technology advanced and the old party lines were phased out to give each family a private line. The change was much more efficient but not nearly as entertaining for us nosey kids.

Eventually, we were able to install additional phones throughout the house. No more running from the front bedroom, through the second floor, down the stairs to the hallway just in time to have the caller hang up. Frustration levels and missed calls dropped dramatically.

Another feature of this long-ago telephone system was the always-available operator. If assistance was needed or a long distance call had to be made, dialing "0" put the caller in touch with a real human being who was knowledgeable, helpful and courteous.

With the operator's assistance, and at significant cost, we could actually talk with my sister, Lynn, in San Francisco from our home in Ft. Worth. The connection could be a bit noisy, but just being connected across all those miles seemed nothing short of magic.

The telephones of today have very little in common with that old, heavy black "land line" unit of long ago.

Instead, today's cell phones easily fit into a pocket. They have the power to connect the caller to anyone, anywhere in the world and do it in the blink of an eye. In addition, most cell phone conversations are free of the interferences and distortions of the past.

In addition to making voice communication so much faster and more efficient, the phones of today perform dozens of other functions.

Daughter Becky, whose cell phone is never farther away than the end of her arm, tells me she can manage her entire world through the use of her bright pink iPhone.

The unit contains a seemingly-endless list of applications condensed by modern technology into one tiny package.

Among Becky's favorites are: a calendar, calculator, camera, flashlight, bar code scanner, memo-keeper, keyboard for texting, voice mail, an E-book reader for those unexpected waiting times, her music collection for ongoing entertainment, a GPS with mapping potential for the world, even a directory of what was formerly known as the "Yellow Pages."

The number of "apps" available to smart phone users is, apparently, unlimited.

According to recent reports, the country has embraced the cell phone with open arms. Now, over 60 per cent of households have abandoned their land lines in favor of the small, portable communicators.

It's just another indication of the amazing changes taking place these days in every corner of our lives. With the future rushing at us at warp speed, we'd all better hang on to our place on the merry-go-round with both hands.



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