Thursday, November 12, 2015

"Number please?" from cheery voice of telephone operator as obsolete as land line phones

By Michael J Morris

When I was a kid growing up in Chapleau, a relatively isolated community in Northern Ontario in the 1940s, we didn't even have a telephone in the house. 

Then the local telephone company added more lines and we got a party line with another home, and by picking up the phone i heard the cheery voice of the telephone operator ask, "Number please?" If people at the other house were using the phone we would hear their conversation.

Soon thereafter, we got our own number which I still recall was 188, and during the 1960s when i was away from home at university and working as a newspaper reporter, operator assisted local calls were still in effect. 

In fact,  I recall phoning the Chapleau operator late at night from wherever I was, which could be anywhere in Ontario, to Loon Lake, Saskatchewan,  to ctach up on the local news. The operators knew everything and everybody.

For example, if you were calling Butch at home, the operator may say, "He is not there, He's at the Boston. He just called Roger from there."

Today,  the "land line phone" as they came to be called in recent years may soon be obsolete.

According to an article by Tamara Gignac in the Calgary Herald on December 27, 2013, "Land line phones — once deemed essential — are increasingly becoming irrelevant as younger users rely on cellphones or technologies such as Skype to communicate." 

I use Skype, Facebook, Twitter and email to communicate and  still have a land line phone, I also have a cel phone primarily for texting. Yes, I text.

Rotary dial phones and the beginning of the end for operator assisted calls, came to my small community about the end of the 1960s 

Gignac quotes Tom Keenan, a professor in the University of Calgary's faculty of environmental design that In some ways, the 'classic land line' is already following in the footsteps of the rotary dial.

Professor Keenan predicts: “In the future, as phones merge with wristbands and smart watches, the land line will become a curiosity and houses will be built without them..."

In 2015, I am celebrating 21 years since I taught my first Writing for New Media course at College of the Rockies.My first fearless prediction was that the only constant in society was change -- and trust me on this one, I had a tough audience. Most of my students in that first class were college instructors, elementary and secondary school teachers and a smattering of college students.

The majority would not even agree that email would come into common use.

Gignac quotes Jim Carroll,  a trends and innovation expert: “We live in a world where technology enters our life, becomes a part of our life and then, boom, it’s gone."

These days I have been reflecting on "Living in Michael's World", the title of a presentation that a colleague made to COTR New Media Communications students circa 1997 about my fearless predictions for the future. Stay tuned, and please feel free to share your thoughts with me. 

My email is

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