Trailer Park Unschoolers

Because you don't need to be rich to unschool!

Hello, Operator?


Corde got us rolling on one heck of a lesson after her brothers went to bed tonight.  She said how she really wished she had a phone of her own.  When I asked why, she said it was to play some app or something.  Her new friend plays apps on the phone all the time.  I couldn’t help but roll my eyes.  I suggested maybe a tablet would be better if she wasn’t going to be making phone calls, especially since there are more apps, or at the very least, different ones.  Any game that needed to be online could be done in an area with wi-fi.  That’s when we got onto the conversation about wireless and wired communication.

It all started with me thinking it would be fun to see how well Corde remembered our old phone.  I showed her a picture of a rotary phone and asked her how you’d make a phone call on it.  The house we lived in right before moving to Texas had a rotary phone in it that I was told I could use because I didn’t have a home phone.  We were also given a color television that was older than I am.  It had that push/pull toggle for on and off that you turned for volume.  There were two dials for the television stations.  I couldn’t have had cable if I wanted it because it wasn’t cable-ready.  She doesn’t remember the television, but she remembers getting to use the telephone as a play phone after we replaced it because it didn’t ring anymore.  She still had no clue how to use it!

I’m not surprised.  I remember a teacher in junior high talking about her daughter’s friend coming over.  She had to call her mom to see if she could stay for dinner, so she told the girl to go upstairs and use the phone in her bedroom.  After about ten minutes she realized that the girl hadn’t come back and was starting to worry.  When she went in, there the girl was, receiver in hand, staring blankly at the phone.  She failed to ask if the girl had ever used a rotary phone before!

I’m starting to think that’s what my kids are going to grow up to think of house phones.  We haven’t had a house phone in a year.  We rarely had house phones in the duration before that.  It just seemed silly and pointless.  Why have a house phone when we each have a cell phone?  Cell phones are so much more practical.  Having a house phone just becomes redundant.  I’ve considered having a house phone so the kids can tell their friends to call, but it seems like an outdated service.  Maybe I would just be better to get the kids their own cell phones when they’re old enough.  They can’t take the house phone with them when they go out.  They can’t use it to call in their travels if there’s an emergency.  They can only use it to call from the house, or to get calls from the house.  Maybe our culture has just outgrown the need for a house phone entirely.

While we were looking at phones we saw some phones that existed before even rotary phones.  She wanted to know how those phones were connected, so we looked at a few photos and videos of switchboard operators.  Then I found a really cool video on YouTube.  I love YouTube for this very reason!

So, let me share this video with you.  It’s called “Now You Can Dial” put out by the Bell telephone company in 1954 when the nation was converting from switchboard service to “dial”.  Some of the information I found particularly comical to think about because it was such a part of when I was growing up.  For example, most people I know don’t know what a “party line” is.  By the time many of the people I know got to school students were already starting to get their own cell phones.  They’re not used to having to worry about someone picking up the phone and hearing their conversation.  They also don’t know what a “busy signal” is because they’ve never had to worry about it.  Most phones have this magical thing called “call waiting”.  Most of the kids Corde is growing up with will never know a dial tone because you just enter a number and send.  Thanks to Google and 4-1-1 you never need to look up a number in the directory again.  You either do an online search or call Directory Assistance.  The Yellow Pages and White Pages are pretty much obsolete.  Phones ring six times on average before they go to “voicemail” and dialing “0” no longer puts you on the phone with the operator (Seriously!  I just tried it!)  Now there’s three-way-calling and the ability to ignore a call if you choose, making voicemail pick up sooner.  You can call from anywhere, not just a wired down spot on the wall, unless you’re charging your phone and calling at the same time.  Being on a wireless phone line no longer means walking around with an antenna sticking out the back long enough that you’re liable to hit someone or something with it when you turn around.  You don’t have to pull out the antenna when you answer the phone either if you’re wireless.  It’s all a quick few button clicks.  Then there’s the contacts lists on phones eliminating the need for an address book, or even speed dial for important numbers!  Remember how complicated programming speed dial could be?  Now you don’t need any of that.  It’s all so simple.

Anyhow, here’s the video.  I hope you enjoy it.  It’s a bit long and very PSA for stuff I’m sure most of my adult readers already know.  However, for those of you who may be younger, or want to share it with your kids, it’s a kind of fun way to learn about the way phones operated before you could call anyone just by pulling a device out of your pocket and touching a few buttons.

And that was our lesson today!  Hopefully you’ll all enjoy it as much as Corde and I did!


Author: Fox

With four kids, who has time for much? We spend a lot of time together, which translates to a lot of knitting time for me when we hang out. We've been trying to get back to our unschooling roots. We watch a lot of videos, play a lot of games, and pay attention to the things we notice in our everyday life. It's been quite the big adventure!

6 thoughts on “Hello, Operator?

  1. What an awesome lession! We no longer have a home phone. We’re all essentially adults now (my sister is 17) and since we all have cell phones, it was a waste of $80/month. We actually have a rotery phone though! It just sits in the wall as decoration. I love the little tidbits of history!

    • I LOVE history, so it’s not surprising that my kids would too. You’re right. $80 per month is a lot of money to spend on a phone that only telemarketers will ever call you on!

      • Its funny, in Canada you can pay to be put on a “Do Not Call” list, if you are on this list, telemarketers cannot call you or you can charge them. The exception is charities and political parties.

        With history, I love knowing where we come from and how our society has evolved to what it is today. If we are talking about political history, I am in love with Europe and the prince(ss), and royals, balls and dances. It seems to magical to me. Have you seen “Kate and Leopold”, I would have jumped into the hole at the end 🙂

      • I haven’t watched that one yet, but I hear I would love it! I’m more a generic “all things history” kind of person, though it focuses mostly on European and American. I know virtually nothing of African history. I’ve dabbled in Middle Eastern history and would love to learn more, but I have no idea where to start. I love learning about North American native cultures, though I have preference towards the Northeast. I think the only cultures I’m not too keen on history-wise are the big ones all my friends are interested in, places like Vietnam, Hong Kong, Taiwan, China, Korea, and Japan. Of course, my favorite periods are the French Revolution and Students Revolt, the American Revolution, the Bohemian Revolution in France, the Viking culture, the Ottoman Empire, the crusades, and old-world Russia, Finland, etc. Yup, I’m a history fanatic!

      • Come to mention it, I too, know nothing about Africa. For whatever reason I am just not interested in it.. I have a weird “obsession” with the middle east and north korea. I find their way of life fascinating. I know the middle east takes a beating, but I feel like we do not have the right to judge other cultures when they just don’t know any differently. Everyone can learn a lot from history and culture. If everyone stops pushing their own “right” views, I think everything will be a lot happier..
        Say, how was your book on Anastasia? Have you started?

      • Sadly, I haven’t yet. I’ve had a whole bunch of chaos go on. I think I’m going to get it out again after things calm down a bit, or at least until after I can get through the book on Ben Franklin! I totally got lost in it and then distracted by other things.

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