“Can you hear me now?” We associate those words with the geeky, horn-rimmed Verizon guy, who started out walking through the woods alone and now is leading a pack of poorly attired technicians. I am not sure what phrase Martin Cooper (pictured to the left) might have used to test his new device. But, one day there may be a church congregation worshipping this man for inventing the cell phone in 1973.
What did we do before Marty came along? Phone booths were a favorite urinal. Disgustingly dirty telephones on the side of lonely roads or in scary neighborhoods were our haven in emergencies or whenever we needed to make that sudden call to check what might be needed from the grocery mart. To the right is the last known working public phone booth in the Washington region. Only a few of the 70s-style booths remain. According to the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, in 2021 “roughly 100,000 pay phones remain in the U.S. – down from 2 million in 1999.”
Although I miss pay phones, I’m convinced they are the transmitter of fever blisters. Hasn’t the number of inflictions gone down over the last couple of years? It seems so to me. The transition from the phone booth to the phone permanently attached in the car, to the credit card-sized data center that fits in a pocket has been a joy. Escaping it is becoming a chore. I carry my cell everywhere, and now it’s like my “clap on, clap off” emergency button. If I pass out or fall prey to a stray animal, my cell phone is programmed with the ICE (In Case of Emergency) number for my wife. Hopefully, if anything happens, she has her cell turned on so the rescuers can do their rescuing.
Everyone has a cell phone. You can’t really argue against the cell as a safety device. It is a comfortable feeling to have your car break down on a desolate road and know your phone will save the day. Aunt Bea never called Andy from a back road. We’re fortunate there is a Marty Cooper.
One day they will be surgically embedding Bluetooth technology in the ear drums of infants in delivery rooms. They’ll be set for life. Speaking of Bluetooth, I have one. It’s a nice addition to the safety feature of the cell. I love using it on the road and having the hands-free option; but only while driving. Today, it has become something of a fashion statement. Wearing the Bluetooth everywhere is chique. We were recently in a restaurant on a Saturday night, when a group of eight people came in for dinner; four wearing a Bluetooth. A Saturday night is the perfect time for cell chit chat, while sitting at the dinner table, proving the Bluetooth is essential for the latest gossip update.
The idea for the cell phone was introduced in 1947 by AT&T, through their research department, Bell Laboratories. Motorola made the wise move of hiring Martin Cooper in 1954. Through the 60s and 70s, Bell and Motorola engaged in a mobile phone development war, and Marty came out the victor. Now we can pick up any forgotten or depleted grocery item on the way home from work. And we get free Caller ID. Martin, you are The Man.
Eventually the Bluetooth and cell phone became one. We walk around with a plug in our ear, and everything is voice-based. Hopefully, it will include voice recognition. Otherwise, we could really mess with people by randomly screaming something in their ears that might trigger a dial. The ability to be in touch at all times is a good thing. We can’t really get away, but we can’t get lost.
Excuse me. My phone is ringing.
Bake My Fish