Hello… can I use your phone?
Copyright Vladimir Kagan, January 7, 2014
The precursor to the smart phone
iPhones - the heir to the telegraph keyboard
“We don’t own one, we have a brand new telegraph machine. It sends messaged without using Morse code! It’s is a small pocket-sized gadget that lets you type words with two thumbs… It has taught our kids to write instead of chatting on the phone for hours. It’s a time-saver, everyone in this house owns one... we can stay in touch wherever we are!”
These gadgets are called Smart Phones! they go under the name of Samsung, Blackberry and IPhone. …They have changed the way we live.
If Darwin is right about evolution, future human mutants will be born with two thumbs and a pinky to hold these phones…
This phenomenon has inspired me to create a shopping list of some of the items that have disappeared in my lifetime.
The Telephone None of you will remember when phones had to be cranked to ring the operator. The operator would answer and tell you, “Mrs. McIntosh is not at home but she’s have tea with Mrs. O’Brien”. Most of you, might remember the dial phone… It was a leisurely process of turning the dial with your index finger and patiently waiting for it to return to neutral. Then dial the next number. Clever hackers could “read” the phone number just by listening to the clicks. These phones bit the dust when AT&T introduced the Touch-tone phone fifty years ago; now, you could communicate fast as lightning just by pushing some buttons… Obsolete.
At&T's revolutionary Touch-tone phone introduced in 1970
Modern folks don’t use landlines anymore, they’ve switched to cell phones. You can see them everywhere bulging out of their hip pockets. – However, try to call your friend and ten-to-one, you’ll be connected to a message machine – text them and you’ll get an instant response.
The slide-rule - the modern alternative to the abacus
The Slide Ruler it was my pride and joy; a delightful instrument… much smarter than my simple mathematical requirements… Its capability was akin to the mysterious Chinese abacus… these tools were available in desktop and pocket size. No architect or engineer could function without one. I still own mine, though I have long since forgotten how to use it. This indispensable tool was replaced by the calculator; first as a large desktop model but soon shrunk to pocket size.
The Typewriter While in High School, I decided that I had to learn touch-typing and Gregg shorthand. I quickly forgot the shorthand, but the typing stayed with me forever… that is why I write so many Blogs today!
I still own my portable Olivetti, tucked away in a closet out of nostalgia
The office typewriter was a huge clanking machine with ribbons that often tangled, smudged letters and ran out of ink at the most inconvenient time. Next came the electric typewriter, the most revolutionary one was the IBM Selectric introduced in 1961; a beautiful streamlined instrument designed by Eliot Noyes. It eliminated the moveable typebars that clanked noisily as it struck the ribbon to imprint each letter. At the end of each line you had to throw the rotating rubber cylinder to the next line… The combined sound was so rhythmic that Leroy Anderson composed his charming Typewriter Song. The Selectric was a radical change; it had a "typeball", known as the "golf ball" which rotated and pivoted to the correct position before striking. The Selectric replaced the traditional typewriter's moving carriage with a paper roller that stayed in position while the typeball moved from side to side. What could be more modern, more convenient? It captured 70% of the typewriter business in America. But nothing is forever. The computer trashed the Selectric. At first, a clumsy office machines but soon shrunk into laptops small enough to fit into your briefcase or pocket book. The hitch: you do need a printer to create a paper trail. This is where the going gets rough. The market is full of printers; the goal was to make them cheap and accessible. And this they did by practically giving it away, but getting you buy the ink… Cartridges run out frequently and cost almost as much as the printer!
The teletype printer of the Telex machine spat-out miles and miles of perforated paper ribbons
The Telex When I was designing offices, one of the vital ingredients was the communication center…The Telex was the ticking heart of company. These machines were outrageously noisy and had to be relegated to insulated rooms. Their operators were the lowest members of the office staff. The bi-product was miles of tickertape, ready to throw out of windows for parades down Wall Street… The silent fax machine replaced these clanking monstrosities.
A desktop mimiograph machine that the operator ground out by hand - sheet after sheet
The Mimeograph This was an indispensable office tool for grinding out multiple documents… It looked like a downsized version of a newspaper press. They bit the dust when Xerox came along with their office copiers.
The Camera has virtually disappeared: From the venerable Kodak Box to the fancy Olympus and Nikon to the pocket sized Sony, Pentaflex and Cannon; along with the giant film industry Kodak and Fuji … add to this the instant gratification Polaroid… gone is the local camera store…The Smart phone has pulverized an entire industry.
A Nikon SRL Camera - Nikon's pocket sized Coolpix - The must-have - instant-print Polaroid
....Add to this list maps, dictionaries, thesaurus, encyclopedias, records, VCRs - record stores and movie rental shops!
All this, thanks to Steve Jobs, (Apple’s mastermind) who decided that his iPhones and iPads could do the tasks of all these dinosaurs… and they do!