Ken Boddie

2 months ago · 4 min. reading time · visibility ~100 ·

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Call Me!

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Do you remember how we used to call our friends and family back in the day? A catch-up call, once a week or so, was what I’d give my mum when I moved to the Big Smoke (London) from the then semi-remoteness of north-east Scotland. This was to let her know that I was still in the land of the living and hadn't been taken advantage of by some “short-skirted hussy with painted lips” (more's the pity).

No phone in the one roomed ‘bedsit’ I was renting, of course, in a large private home in Ealing in the outer west, and so I’d have to walk down to the corner of the block, where there was a call box (or pay phone). In those days the mainstay of the UK public communication system was the red phone box. 

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A typical London phone box.

It was usually Saturday evening when I called, as that was when mum and dad would be at home having just had their ‘tea’ (evening meal in working class households) with one or more of my elderly aunties (mum’s sisters on the Mortimer side of the family), who were over for a bite to eat, followed by a show on the telly, perhaps ‘The Two Ronnies’, or Dr Who’, or ‘Morecambe and Wise’. Even though the telephone’s sound quality was often as crackly as the coal fire that would inevitably be lit in the living-come-dining room on winter nights, I could picture them all sitting snug as a bug in a rug. The door to the lttle skullery (kitchen) would be closed, along with the door to the lobby and the bedrooms beyond, with a draft excluder set against the bottom of each, comprising a corduroy sausage stuffed with rags. 

The phone call procedure, as made from a phone box, demanded some forethought and preparation. First you had to find a nearby phone box that was working (ie hadn't been vandalised) and was free, ie there wasn't someone using it endlessly with no thought for the growing queue outside of frustrated would-be users, getting more angry and annoyed by the minute: 

“… gathering [their] brows liked gathering storm, nursing [their] wrath to keep it warm.”

It wasn't uncommon to see exasperated potential callers banging on the glass outside, while the marooned caller inside continued to carry on, finger firmly plugged in the ear that wasn't glued to the earpiece, seemingly quite unaware of how close he or she was to becoming a physical outlet for the increasingly impatient and irate individual on the outside.  

Then there was the assembly of correct coins you needed to make the call, either gathered carefully in advance, or acquired at the last minute after either asking strangers in the street, or the owner of the local corner shop, for “change for a phone call.”

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Inside the phone box

Once inside you put your coins in the slot at the top of the centrally located black box, dialled the number and then pressed Button ‘A’ once the caller answered. If your luck was out and there was no answer, then you pressed Button ‘B’ and got your money back from the little tray beneath Button ‘B’. Well most of the time you got your unlucky investment reinstated if the call failed, although it wasn't unusual to see some frustrated fella slapping or thumping the box seemingly intent on beating it into submission and teaching this inanimate object that coin pilfering is socially unacceptable.

I usually leaned on the generosity of my parents and went through the operator to request a ‘reverse charge’ call, thus by-passing the whole coin insertion and button pushing farce.

Talking about old technology, a young fella was making fun of me and my generation the other day, saying how slowly we used to communicate back when I was a lad, using only our landlines and snail mail.  I felt obligated to tell him to get his fax straight.  🤗

Then there was the other end of the phone call.  The device plugged into the wall at the call recipient's home, with the handset connected to the rest of the telecommunications devise with a spiralled chord. No privacy back then, with the phone well and truly permanently fixed in the living room where anyone and everyone could hear.

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https://www.scienceabc.com/innovation/pictures-200-year-epic-journey-phones.html 

Of course, before the days of touch pad keys (above left), we used to have to ‘dial’ the number on a rotating disc.  Try explaining this to youngsters who've never seen a phone like the two above on the right. 

“First you insert your finger into the appropriate numbered hole, move the rotating disk clockwise until it won't go any further, then let it go and wait while the disc rotates back to where it was before. You then repeat this exercise for each numeral on the required phone number until all numerals have been dialled. You then wait for a dial tone.” - Are you for real, mister? 😳

The above dialing procedure is almost as unbelievable as the misplaced sympathetic advice, “You can't miss it”, when you've been given directions to where you are going (these were the days, of course, before Google Maps, smart phones directions or GPS devices to get you there).

Those were also the days when a phone was a phone and absolutely nothing else.  Who'd have believed, just a few short years ago, that we'd be able to talk to someone on the other side of the planet, using a small, hand-held devise, while seeing their live image on a small screen.  I used to think that Captain Kirk's ‘communicator’ on Star Trek was a neat but futuristic devise, but it's here already, and was, apparently, the inspiration for the flip cell phone.   But not even the Enterprise crew used their communicators to listen to music, play games, take photos and watch Tai Chi videos on YouTube.

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https://www.scienceabc.com/innovation/pictures-200-year-epic-journey-phones.html 

Incidentally, rumour has it that one of the first mobile (cell) phones was shaped like a dumpling.  It was, of course, made by Gnoccia.  

🤣😂🤣

Fast forward to where we are today with the smartphones like iPhone, Samsung et al.

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https://www.scienceabc.com/innovation/pictures-200-year-epic-journey-phones.html 

Is it then really much of a leap to visualise a future of communicator implants, typing by thought processor, and mind bending communication? That's, of course, if we're still living on a habitable planet by then.

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https://www.androidauthority.com/future-phones-927528/ 

It seems that we've come a long way away from when my Auntie Jean used to take delight, on one of her Saturday night visits, in blaming “those Russian Sputniks” for “punching holes in the sky” and creating all the rainy weather. 

It only then leaves me to hope that, one day, we'll be able to escape whatever horrible situation we've gotten ourselves and our planet into with:

"Beam me up, Scotty!"

...................<<..................>>...................

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When not researching the weird or the wonderful, the comical or the cultured, the sinful or the serious, I chase my creative side, the results of which can be seen as selected photographs of my travels on my website at:

http://ken-boddie.squarespace.com

The author of the above, Ken Boddie, besides being a sometime poet and occasional writer, is an enthusiastic photographer, rarely leisure-travelling without his Canon, and loves to interact with other like-minded people with diverse interests.

Ken's three day work week (part time commitment) as a consulting engineer allows him to follow his photography interests, and to plan trips to an ever increasing list of countries and places of scenic beauty and cultural diversity.

group_work in Café beBee and in 2 more groups

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Comments
John Rylance

John Rylance

5 days ago #26

Just passing this piece, dropped off, to make theses two comments

Firstly a mention to the times when it was necessary to get an operator to get a number for you. Operators were notorious for listening in to conversations and consequently a staple means of books, films, plays of moving plots along.

Secondly I was amazed recently to hear that is still possible to phone the speaking clock?????? At the third stroke it will be ………..

Bill Stankiewicz, 🐝 Brand Ambassador

When I call you , the line is busy.  Come visit me anytime in Savannah, Georgia.

 

Ok will make a few calls 

 

Regards,

Bill Stankiewicz

President 

Savannah Supply Chain

Office: 1.404.750.3200

Info@savannahsupplychain.com

www.savannahsupplychain.com

www.beBee.com USA Brand Ambassador 

www.1millioncups.com

 

https://businessradiox.com/podcast/supply-chain-now/supply-chain-now-radio-episode-17/

Ken Boddie

Ken Boddie

2 months ago #24

Neil Smith

Neil Smith

2 months ago #23

That reminds me that I should give my mum a ring Ken. 

Thanks for the reminder and the pun-ishment. 

Ken Boddie

Ken Boddie

2 months ago #22

Ken Boddie

Ken Boddie

2 months ago #21

Pascal Derrien

Pascal Derrien

2 months ago #20

I am still doing the sunday evening call to my mum

don kerr

don kerr

2 months ago #19

🤩

Ken Boddie

Ken Boddie

2 months ago #18

Fay Vietmeier

Fay Vietmeier

2 months ago #17

@Ken Boddie 

Very interesting 

Thanks for the SMILE

.. felt obligated to tell him to get his fax straight.  🤗

.. made by Gnoccia

Ken Boddie

Ken Boddie

2 months ago #16

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

2 months ago #15

Ken Boddie

Ken Boddie

2 months ago #14

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

2 months ago #13

Ken Boddie

Ken Boddie

2 months ago #12

Paul Walters

Paul Walters

2 months ago #11

Love the way you manage to slip in those sometimes cringe-worthy puns that pepper your posts. Love them, but then again I am a Dad and a granddad 

Ken Boddie

Ken Boddie

2 months ago #10

Lada 🏡 Prkic

Lada 🏡 Prkic

2 months ago #9

I remember how much quieter life was before cell phones. Today, a mobile phone with its function replaces a large number of our grey cells. :) 

At my university, landline phones (corded or cordless) are still in all our offices even though we all use cell phones. Only phone numbers are displayed for every employee (besides email address) on the university website. 

 

Enjoyed reading your interesting, informative and entertaining post (as always), Ken. 

Ken Boddie

Ken Boddie

2 months ago #8

Ken Boddie

Ken Boddie

2 months ago #7

Ken Boddie

Ken Boddie

2 months ago #6

Jerry Fletcher

Jerry Fletcher

2 months ago #5

Ken, Wonderful look back. As a student working in New York with 3 other guys stuffed into  a one bedroom apartment we couldn't afford a phone so I did a lot of overtime to have access to a phone in the office. I, too, called back home (to Ohio) but it wasn't  Mum I was calling. And so it goes.

Franci 🐝Eugenia Hoffman, beBee Brand Ambassador

Phones have come a long way, Ken! They're mini-computers and can do just about anything. Now if I could get mine to clean and cook, I'd be most grateful. lol

Mohammed Abdul Jawad

Mohammed Abdul Jawad

2 months ago #3

@Ken Boddie  You have revived everyone's old memories. Yes, three decades back I used to walk three furlongs to make a call using metal coins. More coins for more minutes. I had the experience of making trunk calls, and then pleading our neighbors to make a call or sometimes informing them that we expecting a call at their number. Decade by decade, and year by year everything in the world of communications has changed.

 

With Smartphones, we experience a different new world…and, with the touch, as if genii working busily and swiftly.:)

Ken Boddie

Ken Boddie

2 months ago #2

Robert Cormack

Robert Cormack

2 months ago #1

I worked with a Scottish guy, Ken, who emigrated to Canada from a small town north of Inverness, possibly Dingwall. This was back in the early 80s, and he told me, whenever he'd call home, it was to a phone box, and whoever answered would have to go get his mother. He didn't call often because all she'd do is cry. Another friend learned his family was from The Orkneys and there were town records (Stromness) showing some of his ancestors were buried there. So off he went, eventually ending up on a small plane that had to circle the landing field a few times to get the sheep off of it. The following day, he checked the town records, then went to the cemetery, discovering, believe it or not, that the gravestones next to his ancestors (Hughes) were Cormack's. “Your family has been bugging my family for centuries,” I told him, at which point he suggested we should go out and get drunk.

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