Oct 19, 2008

The Times They Are Changing

This is the first blog post written via our new laptop. Our other Windows ME-based computer is nearly eight years old. It was time to join the 21st century. Speaking of 21st century, the Mrs. and I made another technology change. Influenced by our son and daughter who share an apartment and a love of life lived entirely by cell phone and text messaging, we decided to dump the land line and DSL and switch to an entirely wireless communication environment. Cell phones for all and wireless broadband on the laptop. The Mrs. and I are away from home more than we're at home. So it made perfect sense to dump the land line.

Ditching the central office/copper wire/twisted pair/tip-ring/modular jack/Trimline lifestyle was a little emotional for me. My family comes from a Bell System shaped environment. My grandmother and great aunts worked for Ma Bell in the 1920's and 1930's as operators in Portland's Tabor central office. One of my great aunts was an operator for over 40 years, retiring in the early 1960's. I started working for Ma Bell in the late 1970's, when many homes still had their phones hard wired into the wall. Dick Tracy's wrist telephone was still seen as fantasy. Car phones were only seen in James Bond movies. Many people still had DIALS on their phones and not push buttons. And broadband! Ma Bell only guaranteed transmission speeds of 300 baud for the primitive modems of the day.

And you couldn't choose phone companies! You couldn't even connect your own phone to the Ma Bell public switched network. If you did, Ma Bell would disconnect your phone! One of my jobs with Ma Ball was to disconnect the service of customers who refused to remove their unauthorized "customer provided equipment" (CPE) from their phone line. I'd get a report from Bell System test desk technicians who tested phone lines on a regular basis to see if customers had more phones plugged in than they were paying for. My job was to send letters to these scofflaws and tell them to remove their unauthorized CPE by a certain date. If they didn't remove the equipment (as verified by the test desk technicians), I'd issue an order to disconnect their entire service. Of course, as everyone knew at the time, Ma Bell's claims that this unauthorized equipment could somehow damage their network was a bunch of bunk. But the prevailing attitude of the day at Ma Bell was, "We don't care. We don't have to". That attitude was one of the reasons I left Ma Bell.

Nowadays, there's a different cell phone company on every street corner, next door to the ubiquitous Starbucks. Every geek on the planet now has a bluetooth headset. You don't know if they're crazy people talking to themselves or if they are talking via the bluetooth. Ma Bell is dead, Qwest and Verizon are attempting to save their investment of millions of miles of copper wire by selling TV and broadband to go along with their telephone service. (Sure, there's digital fiber optics everywhere, but except for Verizon's fiber to the home (FIOS), the last communications road to your house is still copper wire).

Pay phones went the way of the dinosaur except in prisons, where collect calls made on one of those inmate pay phones can easily cost $40-50 dollars for the first MINUTE.

Trivia: Do you know what a collect call is? How about a person-to-person call? How about a messenger call? Time and Charges? "Zenith" numbers? Essential Service? Party lines? Cordboards? TSPS position? Here's some really obscure trivia for you Bell system veterans: Do you know what these terms mean? Pinkie. UTA. TD list. Greenies. P102. CI 24 violation. "Lets Talk". The "bonger". BOFADS. 1FR. 2FR. 1FB. BSCL. C-Cards. Buttons and buzzers.

I think I could still write the S&E for new service for both business and residence services. And admit it, former Bell heads, when rushed, you too made up SIC codes instead of bothering to look them up. And I left the Bell system in the 1980's.

I've seen it all, from hardwired phones, trimline packages, princess phones, touchtone packages, centraflex, Dimension PBX's, Phone Center Stores, the Bell System breakup, to AT&T and Pro Wats, Megacom, Switched 56, T1's, and competition with Sprint and MCI for long-gone long distance service (yes, people once paid for and phone companies competed fiercely for the long distance market).

Now that we've dumped our land line for wireless everything. I think I can finally say that I've broken free from the "Bell and Chain". It was a great run while it lasted.

Gotta go. I just got a text message from my daughter.

1 comment:

ron w said...

Sorry you are leaving city council
Best wishes