On Cell Phones

Here is the history of cell phones as I recall it.

First, there were those phones the army had that required someone to wear a backpack to use it. Obviously, the average consumer would never want something so bulky so at the time there wasn’t much of a market beyond military use.

Next came Zach Morris (of Save by the Bell) and he was the only person at the time that had a cell phone. If you recall (or even if you don’t) he had that huge brick he carried around constantly in his backpack. Still at that point most normal humans would not want to carry around something that large. It was much easier to carry a few quarters in order to use a pay phone than carry a huge brick.

Around the same time as the Zach Morris style brick, there were car phones. The handset was much like the cell phones we know today however, there was a whole apparatus that went with it. And you could only use it while in the car. I never knew anyone who had one of these. In my day, the only in car communication was a CB radio and with those you could only hear bad jokes made by truckers and warnings of “Bears”.

Then the technology for cell phones got smaller but were still fairly expensive. So rich people and professionals such as doctors had them.

Then in the late 90’s or so, the price became more reasonable and the use became more wide spread. Numerous companies for cell phones, cell service and junk to go with cell phones cropped up. Or at least that is what it seemed like to me.

Now we are on to the “smart phones” which aren’t necessarily smart or intellectual but instead do lots of stuff besides allow you to make phone calls. Now you can find maps, check your email or even start your oven pre-heating without going home.

Not sure what the next stage will be.

I remember my life before a cell phone. When I first moved to Los Angeles, I was cell phone-less. In thinking back, a cell phone could have been very useful. The first week I was in LA, I had an awful time getting my phone line connected which meant my contact with the outside world was limited to awkward smiles with the grocery store clerk and collect calls to my mom from a pay phone on Hollywood Blvd.

I remember many people who I met in my early days in LA had cell phones. And it wasn’t as if cell phones were unheard of back in Ohio. I just neglected to get one. I was a poor student at the time and it seemed that my MTA pass or food were more important.

I resisted for over a year. I managed to never get a pager during the pager craze of the early 90’s. I assumed cell phones would be a similar fad.

The change of heart came when I realized it would be cheaper to get a cell phone than continue to pay long distance bills including calls to my then long distance boyfriend. In addition, I was spending 90% of my time away from my apartment, either at school, work or a coffee shop studying. I was also the proud owner of a new to me car. The first auto I had ever owned myself. A cell to call AAA seemed like a wise choice.

My first phone was one of the free phones included with the plan when you sign up. It was a candy bar phone painted a dull gold color. One of my friends told me it looked like it came straight from the set of Star Trek.

Eventually, I traded up to a clam shell. I believe the main reason I needed a new phone was due to the numerous times I had dropped my original cell. And I selected a clamshell due to the numerous times my candy bar phone had called people without my knowledge.

Then there was the cell phone that took pictures. Which was a great phone until I drowned it in liquid laundry detergent (unintentionally of course!). It amazingly continued to work but was the same.

Another phone got traded because one day while I was talking to a friend the earpiece ceased to function. Therefore I could not hear my friend but she could hear me cursing at the phone.

My current phone is functionally properly but I am drawn to the new phones that allow you to surf the web, check email and do various other things no matter how far from home you are. It comes my geek love of technology with my Type A need to do 30 things at once into one piece of hardware.

I respect the arguments that cell phones or devices of their ilk are further isolating us from our fellow man. It is after all hard to strike up a conversation with someone who is busily checking their stocks and texting to a friend. But at the same time there is usually someone on the receiving end of that text. And though its not interaction directly with a flesh and blood human, it is interaction. After all pulling out your iphone or blackberry is a choice. You can leave it in his holster and instead engage the weirdo sitting next to you at the diner counter or not. An iphone is no different than a book in warding away interaction with the world around you.

As cell phones or their offspring continue in our lives, our lives will become intertwined with their evolution whether we like it or not. Just look how the pay phone has fallen by the wayside as more and more people have cell phones.

The following or my pros and cons of cell phones:

Reasons I love cell phones —

1. I can call people from anywhere. This is useful when I need to ask someone a question immediately such as “Do you want a coffee from Starbucks?” Or “What is your blood type? I need a transfusion.” Also, a cell is nice when I have down time but am not at home but want to catch up with a friend. Cell phones are also extremely helpful in emergencies. I can call the police, AAA or a bail bondsman no matter where I am as long as I have reception.

2. It’s hard to find pay phones anymore.

3. Long distance was expensive. With cell phones it doesn’t matter who you are calling it costs you money but usually you have these spans of times at night or on the weekends when you could talk for 12 hours straight and it doesn’t use any of your cell minutes nor does it change the cost of the service This also forced land line providers to come up with better rate schedules like unlimited long distance plans etc. Competition is good. It’s the American Way.

4. Camera phones are useful. They say a picture is worth 1000 words. Having a camera on your phone means you can take a picture of that attractive individual who approached you at a bar and send the picture to all your friends to ensure you are not chatting up someone who just appears cute after too many drinks or not. You can also document things that may not be believed like the time you met Tommy Lasorda and no one believed you. If you had had a blurry camera phone picture you might have had a shot of convincing your friends.

Reasons I hate cell phones —

1. People think because you have a cell phone they should be able to reach you 24 hours a day. And even if what they have to tell you could completely wait, they get upset if you don’t answer. They called your cell phone afterall, a phone you can carry anywhere, why aren’t you answering anywhere. Even if you are in the middle of your own wedding or a romantic dinner.

2. Phones ringing at inappropriate times. Either you or someone around you has had their phone ring at a totally inappropriate time because they either neglected or forgot to turn it off. I have been to movie theaters, court rooms and even churches where before things got started there was a reminder to turn cell phones off or to silent and still at a quiet moment or at a very bad moment someone’s phone starts playing some ridiculous song like La Cucuracha. And that person, or you laugh nervously as they frantically try to turn the phone off.

3. People who think their cell phone are a tin can and string. Some people believe that in order for the person on the other end to of their cell phone conversation to hear
them they must yell. And therefore you could be having a nice meal or a relaxing day by the pool and there is some knucklehead on their cell phone screaming to their friend about “Oh my Gosh! I just had to declare bankruptcy!” And everyone else feels uncomfortable. Or worse people who have a two way pagers so you hear BOTH sides of the obnoxious conversation and includes the annoying chirp in between warbling conversation.

4. People talking on their phones in cars. I am totally guilty of this. Let’s face it, you aren’t doing any thing else in the car besides navigating 20 tons of metal at high rates of speed, why not talk on the phone? But some people are already bad drivers. Even when they are completely focused on the task of driving they aren’t doing so well and then they decide to use one hand and over half their brain in a phone conversation. I am never surprised when the person who almost hit me out of no where also has a cell phone pressed to their cheek. Even scarier are people texting while driving. I care barely text while sitting completely still little alone at 50 miles per hour.

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