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The Villages
Monday, September 27, 2021

When did phones get to be so complicated?

Barry Evans
Barry Evans

I was thinking the other day about the time in what is becoming the distance past when there was essentially one telephone company. You got in touch with them, they gave you a number and took care of everything including the inside wiring in your home.  All you had to do was pay the bill. If the bill was too high for a private line, then you shared with someone else and hoped that they did not hog all the good times to talk – and didn’t listen to your conversations. This applied even when you had a small independent company like we did in Stoneboro, Pa. We had the good old Meadville Telephone Company which was attached for most activities to the Big Company! It was easy, you just picked up the phone and an operator asked what number you wanted.  Initially everybody in the Meadville system just had three numbers so it was easy to call friends.  In addition, if you didn’t know a phone number, you just asked for “Information.” A nice lady would give you the number of anybody you wanted in the U.S. If you had to make a long-distance call, then it would take some time and it was also rather expensive. Receiving a long-distance call was a big deal!

Then one bright sunny day in Washington, D.C. some government officials got to thinking – which as you know can be dangerous. They determined after many conferences, consultations, and reviews of a political nature that the Big Company was a dangerous monopoly that was preying on the hapless American public. They then had Congress pass bills which provided for a system of multiple phone companies that would provide competition.  The fact that the new companies essentially had sections of the country which they controlled and thus there was little competition did not seem to be a worry.  Thus, the new companies provided service quite frequently at a higher price and let people worry about issues like paying for interior lines if something went wrong.  But then, we had moved on and the Big Company was put in its place.

Today it is a different world and there are all kinds of competition out there.  Landlines for example aren’t as prevalent as they used to be and some who think they have one don’t.  For example, our main number goes through the internet which I guess is as good as any. The Blonde in the House can still talk to friends and relatives as much as she wants. On the other hand, we have had our present phone number for 2.5 years. However, we still receive calls for John or Pat who are apparently very popular people. When we go to a store and they put in our phone number to check something it still comes up with their names.  This despite our plea to the internet company to make a change. Oh well, perhaps the next 2.5 years will be better.

Of course, we now have cell phones where again there is much spirited competition. Unfortunately, obtaining the proper phone and having your new phone number placed in the system can be a pain in the butt.  Nevertheless, technology marches on and cell phones mean that you can be bothered anywhere. As with other phones your number is sacred to you and should not be used by anybody else.  That’s fine until somebody decides to apply for something and gives your cell number – hopefully by mistake.  For the past couple of days, I have been receiving calls from lending institutions because some guy named Jim wants a mortgage to buy a house in Ocala.  As with many people, I don’t answer calls from phone numbers that I do not know.  In this case it has resulted in receiving voicemails galore from eager financial institutions wanting to provide a mortgage.  I wish Jim lots of luck while I long for the good old days when I just had to deal with the Big Company!

(Update – Ludwig the yellow rubber ducky has been spotted in the Savannah harbor where he was picked up in a boat and given to a young girl).

Villager Barry Evans is a columnist for Villages-News.com.

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