Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Technology and Society—The Land Line Phone

A while back, a list appeared on various sites entitled Nine Things That Will Disappear In Our Lifetime. Now, the definition of a lifetime would depend on the person. It might be 30 seconds for someone and 100 years for a newborn. We never know (I am such a philosopher, I know). But let's take the figure usually used to calculate the duration of a generation, sixteen years, add a couple years for a fudge factor (which I learned to do in my college physics course, one of three science and math courses I took. Poetry courses--too many to count. And priceless) and come up with a nice round numbered year of 2030. That sounds about right for the things ont he list to have disappeared completely, if not sooner.

Here is the list:

1. The Post Office
2. The Check
3. The Paper Newspaper
4. The Paper Book
5. The Land Line Telephone
6. The Music Industry
7. Television
8. The "Things" That You Own
9. Privacy 

I want to give each of these its own separate post, and some of them are, in the words of the song, "as good as gone," in my estimation.  Checks are one of these. I used to write 40 to 50 checks a month. Now I might write one or two. Good as gone.

One real generational difference comes with the land line telephone. I call the difference between my generation and that of my thirty-something daughters "the digital divide." They have gone almost totally digital, reading newspapers on line, eschewing landlines in favor of cell phones and listening to digital music files. They have always known and used and been comfortable with digital devices. I'm more typical of my generation: I first used computers in school (teaching, not taking) in 1985 and have gradually learned how to use digital devices. I have several computers, an iPhone and a Nook. And yet I still keep writing ideas in a notebook, have a landline, read paper books and listen to CD's. I haven't made the break with the older forms of technology and probably never will.

There are also differences in how we use these technologies. Amy and Alyssa rarely answer their phones. If I want them to respond, I text them. I used to detest texting, although I have a better attitude toward it with some practice. When I asked them about their reliance on this form, they said it was less intrusive and that it was nice to have a written record of information such as an address or phone number. That makes sense to me, although there are times when only a phone call will do.

So, we're keeping our landline with the number we've had for nearly 40 years. I need it for my fax, although there is probably a way I could configure that to work off the wi fi at home. And I know, faxes are hopelessly old school, but sometimes that's the way I need to roll.

The Washington Post did an article on this very issue in 2010, using research and surveys. I prefer to pull these posts out of my ear, as faithful readers know.


  1. Haven't had a landline in over 10 years. Why pay extra? Do not have an e-reader...will probably always prefer paper books :-)

  2. I have a landline because when the power goes out and my "air" phones stop ringing, my landline still does. One son does not have a landline and one son never answers his, kind of like my cell, which I use to call people but don't keep it on so no one can call me.