Memories for Miriam, Alice, Theo, Delia, Tessa
and anyone else who would like to be here
When my mother was a small girl, telephones were new. Not everyone had a telephone, and people did not use them very much. At first, when you wanted to call you said "Hello, Operator," and then told the operator -- usually a woman -- what number you wanted to call. The operator put your call through to the phone you wanted to call. The girl in the picture (which came from my mother's school album) is talking on a telephone from when my mother was young. Soon every home and office had a telephone.
The next big new invention was the dial telephone. A rotory dial allowed you make a direct connection to the phone number you wanted. You would dial two letters and four numbers; for example: DE-4333. After you dialed, you would hear a ringing tone or a busy signal. If someone was at home he or she would pick up the receiver and say "hello."
When phones were first invented, a caller could only talk to people in the same town. Later a caller could ask the operator to connect to numbers in other cities and to people in other countries. Eventually, it was possible to dial all these numbers without talking to the operator. Phone numbers have become much longer because so many people need them.
A long time ago, the lines were shared: you had a "Party Line." When you picked up the phone, instead of a tone that said you could make a call, you might hear someone else talking on the phone. It might be a neighbor. This was the other "party" on your phone line. You had to be polite, hang up the phone, and wait until the other party finished talking. It was very very rude to "listen in" on the other party's phone conversation.
At about the time Evelyn was in high school, push-button phones began to replace dial phones. The next innovation was cordless phones. Now you could talk all over the house and in your yard. The base station for your phone still had to be wired into the phone company lines, but the part you talked to was cordless. About this time, answering machines and recorded messages became available. Then the telephone inventors developed cell phones to use in cars, and then to use anywhere. Cell phone towers like the one in the picture carry the signals for the phone conversations.
Now phones can be with you when you are indoors or outside. It's very easy to make calls to far-away places. Miriam and Alice often talk to Oma and Opa in Germany, which is on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, and to other people all over the United States.
Phones can take pictures and send them to other phones. Phones can find things on the worldwide web, which is another new communication invention. Phones keep lists of phone numbers, so you don't have to remember them. Phones can connect conference calls with several people in different places all talking to each other at the same time. They can play music, recorded stories, and movies. Some of these things used to be very expensive, and now they don't cost very much money. Also, you can have video chats over the internet that are like television pictures of the person you are talking with.
The phone in the picture is the iPhone, which will soon do many more things. Phones are really amazing technology!