Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Bakelite wonders of the fifties


If there’s one thing you can be almost certain of finding in the inbox any day of the week it’s promotion for an iPhone, the assumed phone of our dreams with a price tag of about £1,000. A thousand smackeroos for a phone!
The daily promotion reminds me of the first phones to arrive in makeshift towns in the New Zealand bush, machine-crafted in beautiful black Bakelite. They probably cost several pounds.
Back then, today's multi-sounds and amazing numbers of programs and dazzling little lights weren’t needed. Well, the phones didn’t even have dials back then.
There were little handles you turned when you wanted to make a call.
Of course, to phone someone back then, you first had to discover if they possessed the magic instrument.
TURNING A HANDLE
Today it’s hard to assume that anyone hasn’t a phone, and not just one, but mobile phones for all the family as well, iPhones included.
When the gadgets appeared on the part of the planet where my family found themselves, you spun the handle to get the attention of an operator at the exchange. You would give her the code of the person you were calling.
 If you didn’t know it, that was usually acceptable because most of the operators knew most of the numbers of the few people equipped with a Bakelite beauty.
 News wasn’t always easy to get back then. In the backblocks, newspapers were scarce, and horribly conservative, with the classified advertising filling page one. As for page 3 beauties – forget it.
 However, for news and fun, for titillation, we had those pioneering phones which connected the neighbourhood in a 'party line'.
LISTEN IN FOR THE GOSSIP
 If you wanted to know what was going on around, wanted to be aware of the current gossip, hear a joke, know what a neighbour thought of you, you just very quietly raised the Bakelite receiver and listened in.
 Nowadays even very young schoolkids in my neighbourhood come equipped with Apple's thousand-pound phones. Who back in the early fifties would have imagined it possible?
 Not even quite a bit later, either. An email from Biznews today reported that a Microsoft executive encouraged the world eleven years ago with ‘There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share.’
Google reports tonight that the iPhone manufacturer, Apple, is worth about $945 billion. Continues on the blogs for my ocean travel book, Sailing to Purgatory, at SailingToPurgatory.com


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