Now what could that cryptic post title possibly mean? For those of you who are old enough, you might recognise it as a telephone number, from the days when all calls had to go through an operator, or “Central” as they were also called.
We lived on a farm. My father supplemented our income by working as an-call fireman for the (now defunct) CNR … Canadian National Railway. So, the phone was installed to allow dad to receive calls for a “run”, maybe on a freight train, perhaps a passenger train.
Our telephone number shows that we were on the line numbered 109 (along with other subscribers). When we heard the bells ringing one long and four short signals, we knew the call was for us. So did the other subscribers on our line and we all, no exception, sometimes ‘listened in’ to private conversations. (There’s nothing new under the sun. Now government agencies, and others, do the very same. Their methods are just a tad more sophisticated.)
That’s how I learned that WWII was over; I listened in to a conversation between two neighbours. Remember, there was no 24 hour news service streamed to us, on demand. I can still recall running out of the house to happily tell my mom, who was out feeding the chooks.
Here’s what our phone looked liked in those olden days.
The first full-time job I had was as a telephone operator in a small town in the south-west of Manitoba, Canada. I loved the job, and was thrilled when I had to make long-distance calls, maybe even across the border to the USA. Unfortunately, I can’t remember what salary I received in those long ago days, but I found one source that said the highest paid woman in such a position was earning considerably less than a man in the lowest paid clerical job. That wage discrepancy still exists, doesn’t it?
Here is the sort of switch board the other operators and I faced every day.
“Operator. Number, please.”
Then, along came rotary dial phones, and new technology, that allowed people to make many of their own calls. You developed strong index fingers, dragging that dial around!
Wonder of wonders, the push-button phones arrived.
And then, suddenly you weren’t tethered to the base of the phone by a cord, but could wander around the house as you talked, thanks to the cordless telephones. Here are some pretty nifty models from Bang and Olufsen; every home should have one of those! A new problem arose with the cordless phones. Where in heck did you leave the darn thing?
Bang and Olufsen cordless phones
Now, we have phones that are smarter than us, and they represent not just a telephone, but are small mobile computers, that do as many tasks as you want/need.
You can even get a bracelet model. (Eat your heart out, Dick Tracy.)
So, in my lifetime, I’ve seen an amazing progression in the manner in which we communicate. I wonder what the next step will be?
NB Every single image on this post was sourced through online searches.