The telephone

Where would we be without the telephone? That’s a rhetorical question by the way, so there’s no need to rack your brains for a smart answer. Certainly many people today would be totally lost without being able to talk to someone 24 hours a day (who are they talking to?). Yes, Alexander Graham Bell has a lot to answer for. If he could see where his patent for an “apparatus for transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically” has led, he would have probably stopped before uttering the words of the first telephone message “Watson, come here! I want to see you!” Look at what we now have to put up with because Bell told his assistant Watson to “pluck the reed”

I dread the words, “I’m just going to put you on hold” because I know that I’m about to join the loop of sound that someone has decided will keep me entertained whilst my contact person searches for an answer. I like music, but as most people, there are things I more prefer to listen to than others. What I don’t want to do is to have to listen to someone else’s choice whilst I’m on the telephone. If I’m unlucky I’ll go all around the loop before hearing someone speak again, perhaps several times. Personally I’d prefer silence, or at most the sound of birds singing, how about you?

Incidentally, this obsession with forcing me to listen to other people’s music applies not only to the telephone, but also to numerous other places. Step into a lift (or an elevator as it’s called on the other side of the pond) and there’s a background of notes to accompany the staring at the point just above the door, (what’s so fascinating about that point?). Even in car parks there’s no escape: presumably the cars get lonely when left by themselves.

Of course hearing the music on the telephone assumes that I got through to a real person in the first place. More and more I have to listen to some metallic, computer-generated voice telling me, in Switzerland in three languages, that I’ll have to wait, before switching me over to the music. Even worse, the voice gives me a menu of options of which button to press for various services, which usually leads to a second and third menu with sub-options. If I missed it the first time I have to wait for this loop to come around again – more annoyance.

According to Charles Darwin genetic modifications take place over a period of time so that a species can adapt to its circumstances. How long this takes varies, but usually it is over many generations. However it seems to me that the time period is getting shorter. Take the pocket calculator. In the relatively short period it has been generally available (only 40 years) we have already seen the size and shape of the human finger change to fit the keys. Although the scientific evidence for this is sketchy, to my mind it must have happened: ask anyone under the age of 45 to multiply two numbers together and, because they are unable to do this in their head, they reach for the calculator. Mother nature must have recognised this and made the necessary genetic modifications. So, will we soon see some other modifications to the human structure brought about by our modern way of life? For example the need of some people (not me) to have a mobile ‘phone permanently glued to their ear: people being born with their head on one side, close to their shoulder, with a convenient slot for the mobile.

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