(My next big project for the new year--which will also be my first big project for the new year--is to update my blogroll. It seems quite a few of my blogrollees have stopped blogging, so I need to clean some of those out. If I don't currently link to your blog and you would like for me to, just leave me a note and I'll be glad to add you.)
We are gathered here today to commemorate the demise of the landline. Born in 1876 and continuing to the present day. It's been a good run. But let's face it. It's over.
Soon--if not already--the landline will be as relevant as Dick Cheney, a five-day forecast, or the other guy on CHiPs. Don't get me wrong. I loved CHiPs, to the point that before we had a VCR I would record the audio straight from the TV onto a cassette tape. (What? I was seven!) That notwithstanding, your co-star is Erik Estrada and you're referred to as the other guy? I mean, come on.
From "Watson, come here" to "Sarah, get me the courthouse" to the Charlie's Angels speakerphone, there have been many memorable landline moments down through the years. There was rotary dial, the first phone sex, dial up internet at 14400 bps, and the cordless phone to name a few.
In hindsight, it may have been the cordless phone that provided the first clue that we would one day no longer need the landline. Once we discovered we could get the voice from wall to phone without a cord, it was only a matter of time until we figured out how to get from phone to phone.
Is it any coincidence that the immense popularity and subsequent decline of the landline coincides with the rise and fall of the American economy? Well, actually it probably is.
Nevertheless, in the 1990's the stock market was booming and the landline was flourishing. Phone companies were adding features left and right, such as call waiting, caller ID, call block, call return, call forwarding, and three-way calling--which was a little too 'out there' for my tastes but some people liked it.
(Having never experienced a three-way, I do have questions. If two people who have three-way calling are on the phone and each of them call one other person, does it then become a four-way call? And could this go on indefinitely until finally you just had one big one-hundred-way telecommunications orgy?)
The landline introduced "star sixty-nine" into the daily vernacular. People were loading up their phones with three, four, five, ten features or more. Living it up like there was no tomorrow. Forwarding calls like it was going out of style, which turns out I guess it was. Soon there would be a price to pay for all this excess. And that price would be their monthly phone bill.
Then came the advent of the cell phone, and the landline began its gradual decline. Phone companies tried to save the landline. They offered to call people back when a busy line became available, for a nominal fee of seventy-five cents. That plan found only limited success however, as apparently most people didn't find it that difficult to, you know, simply hit redial.
In the long run, cell phones turned out to be more convenient, at least when you're not going through a dead zone, or at home. They were safer, well except for all that cancer stuff and a few car accidents. Most importantly, they eventually came with those cool little built-in cameras. And internet.
Once cell phones could take pictures and send emails, no one really gave a rip about the frequent dropped calls and mediocre sound quality. And the landline could no longer compete.
So today, we pay our respects to that great institution known as the landline. Our children and grandchildren may only ever see a landline in a history book or museum. But we shall share with them our fond memories of it, regaling them with tales of payphones, prank calls and three-ways. Much the same way that I have shared with you my fond memories of Larry Wilcox.
He's "the other guy" from CHiPs. And no, sadly, I didn't have to look that up.
"Mister Telephone Man, there's something wrong with my line. When I dial my baby's number, I get a click everytime..."