Honoring Our Old Friend, The Telephone
"Hello. (says artwork to the right, at top). Do you remember me? I was the brain child of Alexander Graham Bell, a famous inventor, who had the idea that you, your family and neighbors could talk to each other across the street. Across town. And even across the country. Now like at 'me,' I'm everywhere. Homes. Cars. Businesses. Phone booths. Department stores. Yes, I've answered the 'call' that was on my life many years ago. And I hope that I, and my numerous friends, have helped to make your life easier. Oh, do not blame me for your high phone bills. Mr. Bell did not have anything to do with that part of the phone business."
Mr. Alexander Graham Bell. What an intelligent man. He worked tirelessly, like most great inventors, to create a simple device that to him, would just 'help' a few families by making their lives easier. Smoother. Uncomplicated. And he did just that. Bell invented the telephone. And what a grand day that was. Now I wasn't there, but history says that the telephone was ushered into our lives without that much fanfare. But now look. You cannot look anywhere. In any direction. Unless you see people on their cell phones. In public phone booths. In their laptops, yes, their laptop computers. Talking to their wives, husbands, girl or boy friends and classmates. I could say without being corrected, that the telephone really took flight in 'monsterous' proportions.
Remember early telephones
and I mean the wall phone with a wooden cabinet. Those early phones, that were in their day, "the thing," to have in the household, but you had to crank and crank a level on the side of the phone to get an operator to get you the party you were seeking. And most early wall phone conversations went like this: "Hello, operator. Can you give me Maple Wood 576?" And then she would do that. Get you Maple Wood 576. Ahhh, the simple ways of simple America. Wall phones with three digit numbers. And this particular model of wall phone has been seen in many television shows and movies. On CBS' hit comedy, Petticoat Junction, Sam Drucker, the owner of Drucker's General Store, was seen using his wall phone numerous times to take his customers' grocery orders. No, we didn't realize it at the time. But the telephone was growing like a runaway ***kudzu patch. The more people were getting better jobs, the more they wanted a telephone. The telephone, in that time, was more of a mixture of status and necessity than just being a status symbol.
And there were those of higher incomes in bigger cities who insisted on the finest designs of telephones simply to impress their equally-wealthy socialite friends. Remember those gold (colored) phones with the long receivers that we viewed in many of Audrey Hepburn movies? Those phones. They actually helped tell the story of the script in many of the scenes of the fashionable movies of that era.
Then, one day
the telephone grew restless. Weary. Tired of being just another useful piece of machinery in the home. And these symptoms were normal for the phone. It wasn't the phone's fault for human beings having the tendency to love something when it is new, but when the novelty is over, humans begin to take that new product for granted. This is a true sociological fact. But the ever-enduring, persistent telephone engineers of the early telephone companies, AT&T, Pacific Phone, Ma Bell, and other noted telephone companies, came to the rescue. "How about giving the American consumer a ROTARY PHONE?" an up and coming junior design engineer might have spewed at a high-level meeting of some phone company. Eyes in the room grew wide. Some dropped their Briar pipes from their mouths, that were also wide open with sudden surprise. A few throats were cleared and then the CEO, without knowing or grasping the gravity of what was about to come off his lips, said, "A rotary phone?!! Hmmmm. Son, that is a novel idea! Get to work on it immediately--we got to beat the boys down the street at "ACME Phone, Inc. I hear they are coming out next year with a phone that has wheels." So the junior design engineer sped back to his drawing board. And with weeks of labored over-time, sweat, and a few threats of divorce from his new wife, he finally hit on the idea. A rotary phone. With the little wheel with a hole over each number. And it was fun for the customer to sit down and dial up their friends while listening to that familiar whirring sound of the rotary go round and round. By the way, that junior design engineer was promoted to another development project called the public rest room automatic hand dryer. Yeah, like that would ever see daylight.
With customers now loving the rotary telephone
the company who invented the rotary to begin with. Even owned the patent for it. Had trouble afoot. Trouble of which cannot be described by moral writers. A trouble that would bring many of this rotary telephone company's executives to the brink of nervous breakdowns. Excessive hair loss. Shot nerves. Heavy drinking. And even worse, a cut in pay. And for what? Remember the "ACME Phone, Inc.,"? Well seems that their up and coming team of (under-paid. Under-appreciated) junior designers hit it out of the park with their own counter offensive: THE PUSH-BUTTON PHONE. a push-button phone? "Who would buy gizmo like that?" growled the CEO of the telephone company to his executives and employees who helped to design the rotary phone--along with the up and coming junior design engineer who was now about to announce that he had hit some friction with the automatic hands dryer for public restrooms.
America was having an electronic love affair
with the push-button phone. What ease. What fun. What a time-saving idea, the push-button phone. Simply pick up the receiver, push the number of your party and then you are talking to beat the band thanks to the "ACME Phone, Inc." who now was raking in cash like picking red apples in Washington State. It was that lucrative.
Not to be outdone
the rotary telephone company hired an outside design specialist to come up with a super-idea that would make "ACME Phone, Inc." look small and insignificant. So after a month or two, the design specialist, to the utter amazement of the rotary telephone company CEO and executives, announced, "our phones will not only have an easier-to-push series of buttons that are better than 'ACME's,' but our new phones, now sit down gentlemen, will BE IN VARIOUS COLORS!"
"Are you insane, man?" The rotary telephone CEO barked at the sleek-dressed gentleman from St. Paul, Minnesota, who had been holding his new push-button phone, in color green, behind his back. "We aren't running a carnival, but a big rotary phone utility. What do you gentlemen of the board think?" he added drumming his nervous fingers on the mahogany table.
The board members looked at each other knowing that whatever they said would either make them or break them. After a few feet scuffed the marble floor and a few ties were adjusted, the highest-ranking board member said in a voice so gentle-yet-firm, "We like it, sir!" The CEO's mouth flew open dropping his Tampa Nugget cigar onto the floor.
"You what? Like it? Am I hearing right?" The frightened CEO's voice quivered.
A vote was taken and the production was begun on the rotary phone company's NEW PUSH-BUTTON phone with colors of green, red, pink, orange. It was like the stock market was being invaded the next morning by herds of bulls investing heavily into this new thing on the market: a PUSH-BUTTON phone with colors of green, red, pink, orange. Stampedes were reported on the floor of Dow Jones and Wall Street investment firms. The rotary telephone company had hit pay dirt. They had climbed to the apex of the telephone design. You could almost hear the millions of dollars being ticked into their banking accounts. Easy street. The rotary telephone company and it's board of directors were so confident that this trend would last, that they gave all of their general laborers a huge raise, along with themselves, and took a week's vacation, the CEO and board of directors, not the regular workers, to Hawaii to celebrate their newest invention: PUSH-BUTTON phone with colors of green, red, pink, orange.
Years of prosperity rolled by, money and power
were now the properties of the rotary telephone company. They even opened up offices all across the United States in order to keep up with the orders from customers who clamored for their PUSH-BUTTON phone with colors of green, red, pink, orange. It was like Christmas everyday of the week for this company's stockholders, CEO and board of directors.
At a yearly rotary telephone Employee Appreciation Dinner held in the posh area of Fifth Avenue, New York City, the happy and now very-wealthy CEO stood up to make a toast. He loved making toasts to big crowds. It was like his calling in life. As his small tea spoon clanged against his pure crystal goblet filled with water, he was given instant attention by the packed banquet room of board of director members, heads of every department in the company, but not any regular workers. That would have looked, to the higher-up's of the rotary telephone company who now had the monopoly on the PUSH-BUTTON phone with colors of green, red, pink, orange, as too common. Giving their plush dinner an air of garden variety people. This banquet was for the elite. The powerful. The top crust of the rotary phone company.
The CEO looked serious. Bowed his head in an humble posture. Wiped a tear from his eye, looked at the distinguished people of his company at his table (with pure silk table cloth) and in the huge banquet hall, and said in a voice so clear, "Distinguished guests. Senator Johnson, Congressman Willouby, Mayor York, board of directors, stock holders, ladies and gentlemen. I have but one comment to make: We made it! We are it! We are now the most-powerful, wealthiest, controlling telephone company in the country!" (CROWD GIVES HIM A LOUD STANDING OVATION) And, well, I don't know how to announce this, but here I go . . .THERE ISN'T ANYONE AT ANY TELEPHONE COMPANY GOING TO BEAT US. ANYTIME. ANYWHERE. WE HAVE FOUGHT THE PHONE BATTLES. AND WON. WE JUST CANNOT BE BEAT. ENJOY YOURSELF!"
The applause. Whistling. Yelling went on for almost an hour. By the clock. Dancing broke up withe the fancy ladies in expensive evening gowns 'cutting a drunken rug' from bottles of expensive champagne. Men in top coats, spats, top hats, went wild--jumping on the tables. Breaking glasses. Dishes. Laughing. Drinking. Well into the night. There is not a writer anywhere. Not even the literary genius of, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinbeck, Tennessee Williams, William Faulkner, or J.D. Salinger, could put into words just how rich and warm that feeling of success must have felt to these of wealth, power, and privilege.
But somewhere, back in the rotary telephone's
Special Project Design Dept.
the midnight oil has all but burned up. A man of short stature and big heart has put the finishing touches on his newest invention. A true breakthrough. A device that will make 'him' THE wealthiest, most-powerful, influential young engineer to enter a research laboratory.
Remember the first up and coming junior design engineer who invented the ROTARY TELEPHONE? Let's listen to what he is about to say.
"Eureka! A portable phone that runs on small batteries for long period of time. A portable phone that will totally-revolutionize the telephone industry. I think I will dedicate my new invention to my late uncle, J.W., who died in prison, yes. I will call my newest invention . . .THE 'CELL PHONE!" "And then I will market my other invention: The Hot Air Hands Dryer for Public Restrooms." "But I think, since I wasn't invited to the Employee Appreciation Banquet, I will resign tomorrow, and market these two inventions for myself."
The moral of this story should be: "it always pays to invite EVERYONE who works for you to your company parties. No matter how insignificant you think that they are."
** Kudzu--a green vine-like plant that grows wild in the southern United States. Once it gets a hold of an area, tree or building, it is almost impossible to kill.
Curse or Blessing?
What would our lives be without
our friend, the telephone? Have
you ever seriously wondered
how we would function as a
society if Alexander Graham Bell
had not had the brilliant idea
to invent a machine that now
could rule the world if it had