I was chatting with a friend today who was replacing his mother’s point and shoot camera.  I couldn’t help but think if my own mother would have enjoyed using the modern conveniences we have available today at such accessible prices.  My mother died about eight years ago.  Much has happened in the tech world in eight years.

 

Phones.  Like most mothers mine spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone talking with her children, her friends, and I’d guess her phone conversations represented her primary social outlet.  I remember as a teenager finding her a long 50 foot extension cord for her old Bakelite dial phone and carefully connecting the wires.  Now she had freedom!  She’d drag that phone from the hallway phone nook to the kitchen table where’d she’d pour her coke, light her cigarettes, and look out over Lincoln Park in Santa Monica while she’d chat on the phone for hours.

 

 

 

Phones.  Like most mothers mine spent an inordinate amount of time on the phone talking with her children, her friends, and I’d guess her phone conversations represented her primary social outlet.  I remember as a teenager find her a long 50 foot extension cord for her old Bakelite dial phone and carefully connecting the wires.  Now she had freedom!  She’d drag that phone from the hallway phone nook to the kitchen table where’d she’d pour her coke, light her cigarettes, and look out over Lincoln Park in Santa Monica while she’d chat on the phone for hours. 

 

 

Remember the pushbutton phones?  She loved this, it was lighter to carry around and it had a modular extension cord she could replace herself.   Eventually a new cord would get all ‘twisty’ and then start having issues.  Replacing cords was always on my list of chores to do when visiting home on leave, but now she could do it herself.

 

 

 

Remember the pushbutton phones?  She loved this, it was lighter to carry around and it had a modular extension cord she could replace herself.   Eventually a new cord would get all ‘twisty’ and then start having issues.  Replacing cords was always on my list of chores to do when visiting home on leave, but now she could do it herself.

 

 

Cordless phones came on the scene in the 80’s and she didn’t want anything to do with them.  She saw them as overpriced, poor quality, and let’s not forget she was very ‘attached’ to her old corded phone.  I suggested a cordless phone many times, but in the end I had to agree the quality was poor and the comfort of the handset wasn’t nearly as good as her cordless phone.

 

 

 

Remember the pushbutton phones?  She loved this, it was lighter to carry around and it had a modular extension cord she could replace herself.   Eventually a new cord would get all ‘twisty’ and then start having issues.  Replacing cords was always on my list of chores to do when visiting home on leave, but now she could do it herself.

 

 

And then I bought an AT&T cordless phone for myself and immediately realized it would fit her needs perfectly.  The handset was designed to transition people from the old corded style phones to the newer cordless models and the quality was quite good.  It operated on the old 6 meter band, roughly 50mhz.   This means it had an antenna that needed to be extended.  The next time I visited on leave I brought one with me.

 

When she first saw it she started lecturing me on wasting money, she didn’t want that thing in her house, and the radio waves would fry my brain.  Unperturbed I hooked it up next to her old corded phone and she watched me use it to make a few calls.  It was easy to use which I think was key.  Extend the antenna, hit the “phone on” button, dial the number, and when finished hit the “phone off” key.  As soon as I went to bed I could hear her picking it up and playing with it and finally making calls.  She loved it.  The quality is still the highest I’ve heard from any modern cordless phone and the comfort factor for her hours long conversation was quite high as well.  Before my leave ended I’d made sure to hook up an extended antenna high up in a cabinet to the base station so she could make it all the way down to the laundry room while yapping away on the phone.

 

Soon muscle memory set in.  The phone would ring, you’d grab the cordless, automatically extend the antenna, and bring it to her ear.  A common site indeed!  And yes, I had to replace a fair number of nicad batteries aerials on the handset.  


Years later on my next leave I brought a newer AT&T model with a ‘flex’ stubby antenna and lighter weight with greater range, and she lived with that phone for the next decade until she died. 

 

During this decade cell phones became common.  They’d went from the $2000 ‘suitcase phones’, to the $1000 ‘bag phone’ to the first $500 fully self-contained handset.

 

 

the $2000 ‘suitcase phones’, 

 

 

 the $1000 ‘bag phone’  

 

 

Of course she wouldn’t have one of these and even when small purse sized mobile phones became available she wasn’t interested.  By this time in her life her habits were set in stone, and her phone was her social network tool and her routine of coke, cigarettes, and view of the park were the ‘right way’ to use the phone.    

 

Of course she wouldn’t have one of these and even when small purse sized mobile phones became available she wasn’t interested.  By this time in her life her habits were set in stone, and her phone was her social network tool and her routine of coke, cigarettes, and view of the park were the ‘right way’ to use the phone.  

 

It always struck me as funny the contrast between her work and her home.  At work she worked the graveyard shift at the local hospital which was a combination admitting, phone operator, receptionist position during the wee hours of the night.  Her switchboard and computers at work where always high-tech devices and she used them with a quiet confidence born from the training classes provided by her employer and many years of use.  But to her, these high tech devices were great for work and businesses, but not her home. 

 

There was just no way I could get her to use a mobile phone.  I consider it a small victory that my 95 year old grandma started carrying a mobile phone over the last years of her life before passing away early this year.  But she was the one I received the Two Boxes of History from, so there was no way she’d want a digital camera either.

 

Today very competent point and shoot cameras can be found on clearance for under $100.00, and smart phones incorporate cameras, video cameras, the internet, and mobile phone technology.  In just a few short decades our communication devices and personal electronics have undergone historical changes on a grand scale.

 

I can’t help but smile inside thinking of my mom sitting at her kitchen table, pouring her coke, lighting up her cigarettes, looking out over the park, and then opening her laptop and pounding away on the keyboard reading my new website  , chatting on forums, having video chats, and sending me a ton of emails reminding me just how certain things should be done.  Had it not been for her lifelong cigarette habit she’d probably be sitting at the same kitchen table as I write this.. pounding away on her new laptop.

 

 

 

The last picture of my mother before she passed showing the effects of aggressive chemotherapy and radiation.  The kitchen table behind her was now not comfortable for her, so she found a new chair to look out her window and watch ‘life’ going on in the park.  Did you know the band “Linkin Park” was named after Lincoln Park in Santa Monica  ?

 

 

The last picture of my mother before she passed showing the effects of aggressive chemotherapy and radiation.  The kitchen table behind her was now not comfortable for her, so she found a new chair to look out her window and watch ‘life’ going on in the park.  Did you know the band “Linkin Park” was named after Lincoln Park in Santa Monica  ?

 

I always wondered what she was thinking in all the hours she sat viewing Lincoln Park.  Living right across the street from the park for nearly four decades she saw it go from a place of high society with community theater and all kinds of sports and recreational facilities, to a last refuge for bands of the homeless, and then back again reconditioned to its original state and function.

 

Was she thinking of all the times she’d take my three sons across the street to swing on the swings or play basketball at the different stages of their lives.. or was she thinking of the times she took me or my brother right before our teens.  Maybe she just enjoyed replaying her personal “best of” list of memories over the years.  None of them involving mobile phones or laptop computers.  I’ll never know.  But then I didn’t need to know, or she would have told me.

 

Until next time..