Sunday, May 16, 2010

Rotary Phones and Tube Radios

I was looking at my page on Facebook today... someone who is a friend of mine on there had joined a group that was called "I am so old that I used a rotary phone".

Count me in.  In fact, I have a couple functional Rotary Phones here in the house.  I've got a bunch of oddball technological toys that I collected over the years that are now so old that they couldn't be fixed if I wanted to.  On the other hand things that old were made so that they would last from then to today even if they were used daily so they're still working.

Complex sentence isn't it?  Maybe a run on or two?

Anyway, I was thinking about the things I have in the house that are remnants of another era technologically and I have been surprised at how long I tend to hold onto things.   I've got two Rotary Phones that are older than I am.  One is a candlestick phone that would work well in one of those old Roaring 20s movies where everyone in Chicago was shooting at each other.  The blasted thing could be classified as a weapon since it is made out of iron and solid brass and has a "trumpet" on the front that is made of Bakelite.   A plastic that would shatter if you dropped it Just So, but since you don't it won't break.

The other phone was one out of a store in Philadelphia called Strawbridges that was bolted to the side of a desk.  The bell on the phone comes in a box that would break your foot if you dropped it from your knee on it, and the phone itself has a handset that is solid iron... or so I think.   Massively heavy and meant to last. 

Another thing would be Dad's Radio, a 1956 Blaupunkt AM, FM, Longwave, Shortwave "Hi Fi" tube radio.  I got started listening to shortwave radio as a two and a half year old kid because they did stories on the BBC World Service back then.   It still works.  In fact, that old radio has a sound that is warm and wonderful.   I can still push the button on it and it will warm up and give me sounds from far away if I like, although if the tubes needed to be replaced, there's just no hope.    Tubes predated Transistors and Integrated Circuits and if you look at them when they were powered on they'd have a red glow that would actually make the circuit work.  Electrons going from the Cathode to the Plate through a semi vacuum. 

I don't have to go that far back in history though.  Thanks to a good friend in New Jersey, I have a Zaurus handheld computer.   That machine is about the size of your hand and I use it when I go places like Commission meetings to take down notes, and I have used the thing on the dais when I had my Community Affairs Advisory Board meeting to help us work out the budget.  I don't think it helped the rest on the board, but it certainly helped me keep things right.

Things turn around so fast that now you don't get to know your tools like we used to.  Maybe that isn't always a bad thing since things typically get better and more efficient and sell cheaper.   On the other hand, as anyone who knows me, it also implies that whole Planned Obsolescence thing that I dislike so much.

For now, I'll keep my 1950s phone that is connected up to a "SIP" Box and my network so I can make free phone calls to people anywhere in the US.  It looks great bolted to my desk. 

Oh and the news will be starting on the BBC World Service shortly ... so if you will excuse me...

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