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Today's technology IS a big deal

Published August 15. 2015 09:00AM

The year is 1945. We lived at 202 E. Hazard St., Summit Hill: At age 6, I quietly picked up our home phone and listened to the party-line conversation between my teenage neighbor and her boyfriend.

When she made some gooey, sappy and lovesick comment to him, I couldn't help myself and stifled a laugh.

"Bruce, GET OFF THE PHONE!!!" she ordered. "Yeah, you little creep," the boyfriend chimed in, "Get off the phone."

I did. Obviously, this was not the first time I had listened in. In retrospect, I believe this was my introduction into sex education.

An hour later, I picked up the phone again. The lovebirds were still at it.

I explained to my neighbor that my mother, who was at work in my parents' grocery store several blocks away at 19 N. Market St., told me to check in with her at this time.

"Will you please get off the phone?" I pleaded, "otherwise, my mom will be really mad."

The neighbor and her honey agreed to continue the conversation later.

After they hung up, a female voice came on the line. "Number, please?" she said in that soothing, but businesslike, tone that telephone operators were noted for.

"42-R," I replied.

That's right, no dial, no buttons and no seven-digit phone number. A few seconds later, I was speaking with my mother, assuring her that I was OK at home.

We shared a party line with three other households, so when I would pick up the phone, I had to make sure one of the other three was not using the line.

If one of them was, I would generally hang up, but if it sounded like a juicy conversation was in progress, I would lift the disconnect button ever so slowly so no one knew I had returned to the line.

If I was discovered, there would often be screaming and, sometimes, intemperate language, demanding that I get off the line.

On a couple of occasions, they even had the nerve to call my mother to rat on me, resulting in some physical consequences for my backside.

As I look back on it, this curiosity may have played a role in my choosing to become a journalist, but that's another story.

Now, fast forward 70 years. I pick up my smartphone, touch the Google app and say, "OK, Google."

The phone makes a blipping sound after which I say, "How far is the earth from the moon?"

A female voice answers immediately, "The moon is 238,900 miles from Earth."

A short time later, a friend and I, both fans of the TV show "Columbo," were discussing star Peter Falk. We knew he had died a few years ago, but not precisely when

"OK, Google," I spoke into my smartphone. "When did Peter Falk die?"

The voice returned, saying, "Peter Falk died on June 23, 2011."

At the same time, a photo of Falk was displayed on the screen.

Well, I don't know about you, but I find this technology fascinating beyond words. Don't get me wrong; I am not a technical whiz. Far from it. In fact, if I need to solve anything except basic computer questions, I have to turn to the expert my youngest son.

For a curious mind such as mine, I find it so convenient to be able to look up anything and everything on my smartphone. In the past, I would have to go physically to a library to research a topic or subject, unless I were lucky enough to have a set of the Encyclopaedia Britannica at home, which I wasn't.

There is no question that as we age, we become more comfortable in our routine. Technology is coming at us fast and furiously. It can be daunting. We can either embrace it or get left in the dust.

Being on a two-year phone plan, I had just gotten comfortable with my old phone and its functionalities when my son insisted that it was "old" technology.

"No," I objected. "The old party line of my youth that was old technology. That's when he rolled his eyes.

He, of course, prevailed, and I now have the sleek HTC phone, which required a new learning curve. It's amazing. I can say, "Call Mike" (one of my other sons), and in seconds, the phone is ringing his cell.

There are still times I need help. No problem. I merely tap my Google app and say "HTC phone," and the female voice immediately says, "HTC Corp. customer service number is 866-449-8358."

If I want to send a message to someone, I have the option to type it out in a conventional manner, or speak the message, and the phone converts my spoken words to written words. Amazing, no?

My phone also takes photos, not only of others, but I can take a "selfie" a photo of myself.

Yes, there is a setting on the phone which points the camera at me, rather than at a subject. I can take videos and record conversations. This phone does a lot more, but you get the idea.

Of course, my grandchildren would say, "Yeah? So what's the big deal."

If only I could transport them back to the days of the party lines and operators who asked, "Number please?"

Then I can announce with authority: "THAT'S the big deal."

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