A long time ago, and in several countries, not all of which are now far away, telephones were simple objects.
You got your phone service from a national phone company that controlled, organized and regulated everything. It could take weeks to get a phone in your house. Your choices of phone was relatively simple – with or without a unit meter. The billing system itself was extremely complicated: it was all about units. But how many units you were charged depended on the time of day and where you called. Even local calls had a charge.
In 1984 when I PCSd to the Washington DC area, I was appalled to find the phone system had been privatized. It was extremely complicated. Not only did I have to figure out a carrier, but I had to go find my own phone. There was a blinding selection of shapes and colors, none of which made any sense to me. The quality of service had seemed to decrease, the long distance carriers offered deals so complicated that graduate degrees in reading fine print were essential. And, dialing was out and pushing buttons was in.
I was relieved to escape this madhouse, but found that Telekom seemed to be on the same track. I had to procure now my own phone. Since none of these models featured meters, getting the results of the phone bill every month was a surprise. Additionally, since nothing was itemized, it was a real challenge to break the code on getting a real bill so that you could tell if those were really your calls. The attitude on Telekom’s side? We billed you, so those must be your calls.
Then the wall came down. Suddenly there were people all over who came from places where the only phone in town had been at the local Inn. Where the infrastructure was not going to support extra phones and the waiting list for a personal phone was rumored to be 5-6 years.
It was right about then that hand held phones, independent of a physical location first came on the market. These Handis were neither attractive nor light, but had the advantage that you did not have to wait years, nor be tied to a particular location. And the trend started spreading.
By 1995, even the military was starting to buy these cellular telephones. The miracle of modern technology meant that you could find someone anytime, anywhere. More reliable usually than the old brick radios, I sent mine along routinely on the long distance ambulance runs.
They got smaller, fancier over the subsequent years. Home phones did not become a thing of the past, but the other technology lead to changes here as well. Not just satisfied with the old fixed phone system that allowed only one phone in the house on the circuit to be active at a time, combinations were now available with base stations and phones that were portable.
This leads me to the problem which has persisted through to the present. This lovely, programmable handset charges when sitting in a base station or charger. It uses electricity steadily from the battery when not docked. The more it is used for calls, the faster the phone goes to empty. When it is uncharged, it is silent.
Living in a house with a number of others, three of which are teenagers, it is not uncommon for someone to go off with a phone. Or, when the call happens to be for a downstairs inhabitant, the nice ringing phone is handed down to the requested recipient of the call.
When the call is completed, in principle the phone should be returned to a base station or the original location so as to make it easier for others to use; or to answer, when the next call comes in.
Now, I don’t particularly get many phone calls. Those from work who want me routinely call on my cell. The teens get a fair number of calls. George gets calls.
They all use the phone, then leave it lying where ever they were. Discarded as unimportant, locating a phone only becomes an issue when there is an important phone call to make. But these two phones always seem to have migrated somewhere.
Pushing the button on the side of the main base station is supposed to make the phones ring. When they ring, I can find them. Provided, of course that they are not out of charge.