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Preserve My Brain

Generation X - The Missing Links


I think the people of my generation, Generation X, should have their brains and experiences preserved cause when you think about it, we are like living relics. We are the living breathing bridge between the mechanical age and the digital age. The soon to be missing links if you will.

Anyone between the ages of like 45-55 and beyond should be treated like those old tribal storytellers who kept and passed on memories for the new generation through oral tradition. I mean generation X and the Baby Boomers are the last people on Earth that know how it feels to live without the internet, cellphones, social media ex. We went from playing PONG to virtual reality; from pay phones to cell phones; from black and white to Flat screens. Once we are gone, that's it, it's digital doo-doo all the way, and who knows where that's about to lead us.

So I'll tell the tale of one aspect of the old world. 

The rotary phone, for record's sake.

Now, kids, there was a time when a phone was just that, a phone. No frills, just a device to communicate with another person with. No videos, GPS, status updates, purchasing products, pictures, Facebook, nothing, just talking.

It really was something, looking back at this. Just try to imagine for a second today not knowing who is calling on the other end of your phone. Well, that was if you were lucky enough to have your own phone in your own room. 

We must remember the phone back then was a communal thing. Something to be shared with other members of one's household. Once that call came in you had to kind of decipher if the call might be for you or not. If alone, your psychic abilities had to be at a heightened level, especially if you didn't want to talk with a certain person. Every time it rang it was a new adventure into the unknown. If you knew someone might be calling that you didn't want to talk with you just didn't answer or got a trusted family member to answer and tell the other party you weren't there. I can't count how many times back then I would hear, "It's for you," then me running up to my mother and saying under my breath, "Tell em I'm not here!" 

This kind of deceptive communication between parties usually happened when they were staring right at you. If you didn't have someone to lie for you and you decided to chance it and answer, one great trick was to pick up and say nothing. No hello, you just picked up and waited for the person on the other end to make the first sound. One could usually figure out within milliseconds who it was to where you would then either quickly hang up or start talking. 

This of course worked both ways. Sometimes you would miss a call that you really wanted. 

"I told her you weren't here." 

"What! I was right outside in the front yard!"

 All the drama in your life was waiting behind that phone. Sometimes you could tell who it was by a number of rings. If it rang four times and then a hang-up, it probably wasn't for you. If it rang 17 times, stopped, then rang again another 17 times you knew the person knew you was home and that you were just not answering. Sometimes if you wanted to just hear someone's voice you would call once, let them answer, and then hang up. Sometimes with friends, it was necessary to create private codes like Morris code type stuff. Two rings meant—pick up it's me. Three rings meant—meet me outside.

On the lighter side, the prank calling opportunities were great. See no one knew who was on the other end. There was no tracking anyone to anything so if you were a good impersonator you could trick the caller. Calling and saying you were the police was a classic.  

On the user end, it was a nightmare at times. The things one had to do with the cord were nothing short of miraculous. We must remember that the phone was literally attached to a wall, so the length of your chord had very much to do with the kind of experience one had.

A short chord meant sitting on a chair or standing stationary near the base of operation. If you wanted to be private, it meant usually sitting crouched down on the floor keeping your voice level barely audible to your immediate surroundings. I can remember doing some pretty wild stretches while talking holding the phone in one hand and trying to reach for something in the fridge with the other; of course doing this all without breaking the flow the convo. If the conversation was heated there was always the risk of ripping the phone right off the base with one forceful jerk.

A longer chord meant more freedom, but of course with this freedom came other problems like getting it tangled up in furniture or around the legs of a random family member that happened to be walking through the room. When this occurred, you had to either use the chord as sort of a jump rope or just flip it up and over the person like the Long Ranger. I can remember pulling the chord through two rooms, closing the doors, and dealing with the three feet I had left just to get some privacy. 

Of course, if the cord was too long it eventually wound up being too short because it wouldn't take long for it to weave itself up into a twisted long knot. Those of my tribe will remember the crappy long phone chord knot well. It was almost impossible to unwind, so you just kind of left it in a dangling knot. 

Dialing

On the phone, there were no buttons, no texting. The dialing apparatus was made up of a circular piece of plastic with 10 holes representing 10 numbers. In these holes, one would place their finger to dial the selected number. One number at a time.

The higher the number ending in 0 the longer it took to dial. Zero being the longest.

If the number you were dialing had more than one zero in it, it became quite an affair just to make a call. Remember we are talking about actually dialing with your finger. I can remember forcing that zero manually to quicken the dialing process. The Zero could be dangerous at times. If there was an Ax murderer the happened to be roaming through your house and the number you needed to dial for help had more than 2 zeros in it, you might as well kiss your ass goodbye. 911 was also long caused the 9 had a tad shorter waiting time than the 0 to make it back.

As the phone progressed, answering machines, push buttons, beepers, and the first handheld cell phone came trudging along the technology tracks followed by internet access. I can't help but think with all the great leaps in the phone's evolution that we kind of lost something along the way. Maybe it's a sense of intimacy.

When one would talk on the phone let's say in the70s-80s it was something you really looked forward to. People spent time on the phone bonding, building deep intimate friendships. Kids would talk for hours to each other. Siblings would have to fight for time. You would hear things like "Get off the phone you've been on it for 4 hours!" People would converse so long they had to take intermissions. Remember that! "Hold on I got take a break." Then you would go take a piss, get a drink, and rub out the sweat and muscle aches from holding the phone so long.

It was solely audio communication. You heard a voice, knew when people were upset, you knew when people were kidding and when they were being serious. I'm not sure a lot of this is happening today with texting. The phone used to be a punishment for parents to use. No homework—No phone! Taking a phone away from a kid today might give that person a trip to the ER.

Now I'm not saying people today aren't having close relationships, but today with texting and the distractions that come along with using a phone itself, being the internet, social media, and photos, I think the attention has been shifted from having conversations and relationships to being more focused on status, ego and image. The relationship with the self has seemed to take center stage. Everything is quick, fast, we are getting bombarded with information, videos, the sensationalism of everything and our attention spans are dwindling as a side effect.We have become a culture obsessed with likes, hits, and numbers and seem to be involved in a never-ending popularity contest. I'm sorry but this kind of environment will not produce deeper relationships.

When I see kids texting today they almost look like a form of Android the way their fingers move. Compare that to staring out the window or sitting in your room playing music lightly in the background and just talking to someone for hours absent internet distraction; the contrast between generations becomes plain as day.

It's amazing how far we've come in methods of communication and how little we are actually really communicating with each other.

The phones of today really have little to do with conversing anymore and although the intention might have been to enhance the human experience, I can't help but think that they might have taken away part of what it means to be human.

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