Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The landline and Larry Wilcox

(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..."


  1. I also remember recording things from the TV onto a cassette. Not Chips, but maybe the occasional Dukes of Hazard.
    I don't write nearly as much as I should, but maybe if you added me to your blog roll I'd be motivated to post more often.

  2. I spent the whole post thinking, ok, but who in the world is Larry Wilcox.

    Thank you. I've learned something new today :)

  3. Another hilarious post by Bone.

    Though... I thought all men took any chance to be part of a threeway they had? You're telling me that's not true now? Huh. I'm all confused.:)

    The best part? When you got to the end and said you never even had to look up Larry Wilcox and all I could think was "Of course you didn't."

  4. Great post... As you know, I recently wrote about the dangers of things like call-waiting. I do use 3 way calling at work, quite often, and caller id is good. As for cell phones, I wish I could go back to the day when only secretary and one or two others have my number, but that not being the case, I leave it on vibrate in the bottom of my computer bag and it never bothers me.

  5. Susan - Uh, I'm not sure that would work, as you are already on my blogroll. lol

    Cami - Another mostly useless piece of information from the mind of Bone. You're welcome :)

    TC - Well, I guess I'm old fashioned that way.

    Yeah, I figured that went without saying. But just in case, I said it anyway.

    Sage - It was your mention of call waiting that started me thinking about phone features and eventually inspired this post.

    So I guess what I am saying is, blame Sage :)

  6. I may be one of the very last hold outs for the landline. Even my mother is thinking of getting rid of her landline... but that's only because my brother is paying for her to get a cell.

    I have to keep my landline cuz I'm on DSL...I don't think you can have just DSL service...right? I dunno.

    I AM considering dropping my landline long distance coverage though. the landline phone companies have had to start charging so much for it cuz all you cellies are using your cell to call instead of the landlines.

    sigh...Well at least I'm glad my DD has used a landline so she'll know the joy of having a clear conversation without yelling.

  7. I haven't had a land line since 2000. Recently I switched cell phone carriers to Sprint, and the phone hardly works in our house. Being that I am home all day, I have been seriously thinking about getting a home phone again! Are you keeping yours or turning it off? Or, maybe you have already turned it off and we just don't know because we always call your cell! See ya tonight for dinner. Come hungry!

  8. Per your comment on my blog. Those wonderful holiday foods are hard to pass up.

  9. ps I still have a landline and refuse to give it up even if it cost more than my cell phone and I never use it. I'm old school!

  10. Uh you would have blackmailed me when a newspaper did an article on me being the oldest known all cell household in Manhattan if I hadn't put the article out for all to see

    That said cell service here isn't great so I'm going to spring for the $19.99 a month cable phone service--includes long distance--any hour of the day

    I love love love talking on large phones, and not having to scream "wait a second, let me go down stairs and out of the townhouse and then we can talk"

    Calls drop like crazy. Of course it's an accepted excuse to both end a call or not answer a message though not the later so much anymore

  11. Renee - Actually, I asked the last time I called AT&T. They said I could keep DSL and drop my landline. There's just like a $5 line fee or something that you pay.

    Yeah, I haven't had a long distance carrier in years. It was just a waste of money.

    Mrs. R - I still have mine for now. My cell doesn't pick up great at home, either. Especially downstairs. I guess that's the downside of going all wireless.

    HotPink - My landline is stripped down with no features and I rarely use it, but I still have it.

    Pia - Good point. I often wonder when people say "my phone never rang." :)

    I think you're just turning Southern. Next thing you know, you'll be making sweet tea and hanging clothes out on a line.

  12. Once again you crack me up and bring back good times I had forgotten about. I used to tape the Donny and Marie show and make everyone hush for the hour it was on. We only had 1 tv in the house and 1 phone as well so my parents heard every converstaion I ever had. We still have our landline as well.

    I would love it if you added me to your blog list.

  13. Yeah, add me to your blog list too, if you don't mind.

  14. As I'm sure you know we don't have a landline we just use our cell phones. The one and only landline was in at our house in Decatur before we moved since we didn't get good cell phone reception. Don't forget to add me to the blog roll.

  15. Right now I'm quite content with my landline, and honestly, I don't even WANT a cell phone. When people ask me why, I sometimes tell them, "If I'm not at home, at work, or with you, I probably don't want to talk to you." :)

  16. Great post!

    I think landline would be very pleased with this post. Ah,he'll be missed.

  17. *tear* goodbye land line *tear*
    As you know I am not a phone person, so adding me to your blog roll would be a good idea :)
    my 2009 project is to write more letters before the USPS is gone forever...*sigh*
    If you or anyone wants to recieve a letter from me- e-mail me your address and I will send you some mailbox mail within the year.

  18. this is sad. I have a vested retirement with Pacific telesis a LAND line company what are my odds of collecting in ten years?


    have a good day
    sorry about Larry, where is he now ?

  19. Yeah you need to do a "Where are They Now" post on Larry.

  20. PennyCandy - Oh man, I had a Donny & Marie record player!!! I mean, uh... I knew someone who did. Yeah, that's what I meant.

    Doohickie - Can do.

    Crazy Life Of The Mc- Yeah, I think ya'll were the first people I knew to go all wireless.

    R8chel - Oh yeah. I remember you. I've heard about you. I actually have one friend who doesn't have a cell phone. It's very inconvenient. For me :)

    OK Chick - Thanks. I'll put that idea in my hopper. I think a Full House Where Are They Now post will have to come first, though. And maybe a Dukes Of Hazzard one, too.

    DailyPanic - What? Are they stopping the mail? What will I do for pizza coupons?

    David - Well, apparently about half of my commenters still have a landline, so you might be safe for a few years.

    I think Larry did pretty well with his own production company or something. He hasn't been on Surreal Life or Dancing With The Stars. That's all I know.

  21. "It's very inconvenient. For me"

    Well. Then I guess it's a good thing you've never wanted to call me... :o)