On the Subject of Telephones


“Dad”, asked Daniel, “did you text a lot when you were a little boy?”  We were driving back from dinner.  Our bikes were still taking up the backseat of the truck.  Daniel was up front with me, pressing all the buttons on the radio and adjusting the vents “just so”.

There were a myriad of ways I could have answered the question.  I might have answered with just a simple “no”.  I might have said I used to text quite a lot, except back then we called it “sending a postcard”.  I split the difference and explained that – no – I didn’t text when I was young.  The technology hadn’t been invented yet.  Daniel looked surprised.

“But the telephone was invented in the 1800’s,” he replied.  “Was it just really expensive to have one when you were young?”  It occurred to me that Daniel’s definition of “phone” is different than mine.  To him, a telephone is a little handheld device that you can take anywhere, take pictures, shoot movies, play games, look at the Internet, write people and even talk to them.  I explained that – when I was his age – the telephone was just used to call people.  It couldn’t do anything else.  We couldn’t go anywhere with it because it was attached to a box with a cord and the cord was plugged into the wall.

Daniel brightened.  “It was like the ones we built for Cub Scouts!”  I laughed because the “telephones” we built for Cub Scouts were a pair of tin cans attached with string.  And I laughed even harder because – frankly – Daniel wasn’t too far off from the truth.

 

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