Friday, July 10, 2009
I don’t know about you, but I am kind of getting sick of seeing the top headline in the Gainesville Sun each day: “Find out who’s the 21st greatest player in the SEC!” I’ve got news for the Sun. I’m not going to wait with baited breath every morning for the next twenty mornings to find out who the next greatest 20 players are.
I mean, you can probably count on one hand the number of people who care about the 19th and 18th greatest players in the SEC. Why not do something really interesting, and give us a countdown on the twenty-five greatest inventions in the history of mankind. Stirrups on horses would probably rate about a number seven. Atomic energy might be third or fourth.
I would put the printing press at number one, and the telephone at number two.
Alexander Graham Bell certainly does not get his due. Just think about what the world would be without the telephone. No hotline between the United States and Russia. No voice from the moon telling us about one giant leap for mankind.
My own life goes back to the primitive years of the telephone. I can still remember our first telephone number – 331. Which meant that we had the three hundredth and thirty-first telephone installed in Danville, Virginia. We would take the earpiece off the hook and wait for a real live human being operator to say, “What number, please.” My wife lived in a small town in New Mexico, and everyone had to have a party line. You couldn’t make a phone call if the other party was on the line, and, in an emergency, you had to break in and ask them to hang up to free up the line. If it wasn’t an emergency, you could just listen in on their conversation with someone else.
I can remember on my first trip to New York City when I saw a rotary dial telephone for the first time. Man, that was living. No waiting for the operator. A phone call never touched by human hands.
Now, fast forward about sixty-five years. I phoned up our handy-man a few days ago and asked him when he could come by the house to do a small job for me. “Not this week,” he said. “Right now, I’m standing with my family by the side of volcano in Hawaii.”
My daughter told me last night that I could reach her in South Korea for the next five days by calling her cell number or just e-mailing her. She could receive the e-mail on her Blackberry.
Thank you, Mr. Bell. The telephone is number two.
This is Radio Ralph Lowenstein, with a commentary at mid-week for AM 850.