I often tease about my smarter-than-me-phone being, well, smarter than me.
No kidding there.
I am astounded by what my phone can do. Voice commands. Operations by touch. Countless ringtones. Emailing. A flashlight. Maps. Games.
For those of us who grew up with landlines—sometimes party lines where users shared the same line—the change is visceral. In the old days, we were tethered to our phones and our phones could not go outside the house. I recall times of duress when I sat near the phone, waiting for important calls. Every so often I would pick up the phone and check for dial tone. Ring, dammit!
And our old-timey wall phones rang like a bell. Plates in nearby cupboards would rattle if the ringer was cranked to loudest setting.
Way back in the days of film cameras and cars with big chrome bumpers, I lived in an apartment with thin walls. I could hear when the phones rang in six or seven of the nearest apartments. One of the most miserable nights of my life was the night following my crash from a relationship with a long-time girlfriend. I was not going to call her. She would have to call me. Naturally, I sat by my phone the entire night. All around me, I heard wall phones and desk phones clamoring in nearby apartments. Mine remained silent all through the night.
Today, many of us run in silent mode. We text our pain and our rage. Dial tone is gone. When someone sets their cellphone to an old-timey bell ringtone, we are startled to hear it ring. At the other end, a voicemail answers if the party we are calling is not available. When someone calls us, we know who is calling. If we are lonely in our apartment, we can grab our phones and google a few videos of cats failing into bathtubs filled with water.