Kids can make a person feel ancient
March 10, 2014
by Ivan Raconteur

I’m feeling mighty old today.

I just watched a YouTube video, “Kids react to rotary phones.”

Despite the fact that it made me a little sad, I must confess it did make me LOL. In fact, I was practically ROFL by the time it was over (I’m trying to feel less of a relic by using the shorthand of today).

Watching children’s reactions to rotary phones – which was the only phone service available when I was growing up – made me feel older than the hills.

In my defense, I will state for the record I am not a complete dinosaur. I became aware of the video via a Tweet from Tom Butler of Fox 9 News, and I watched the video on my iPhone. I have advanced since the days when we – those of us who were around back then – all used rotary phones.

In the video, children are presented with rotary phones, and the host asks them questions about what they are and how they were used.

The first thing that struck me was the only reason these children could identify the device was they had seen similar models in the movies or on TV.

It does make me laugh when I am watching an old TV show, and someone needs to run around looking for a phone in order to make a call. Even police officers calling their headquarters had to do this.

Then, once they found a phone, they had to dig around in their pockets or purses looking for change before they could make the call.

I remember those days.

I remember attending conferences and seminars, when every time there was a break in the presentation, the attendees would stampede toward the bank of pay phones in the lobby to call their offices. I always sat near the back in order to reduce the distance I had to run.

None of the kids in the video had ever used a pay phone.

I don’t suppose they would recognize a phone booth if they saw one.

To be fair, phone booths have become as rare as tax cuts and function more like time machines than communication stations.

Once the children in the video had been convinced that these strange-looking devices were telephones, the host asked the kids how to use them.

I was surprised to learn most of them didn’t even know what a dial tone was. It makes sense, of course, I just hadn’t thought about it before.

The children in the video didn’t know what a busy signal was, either.

“That’s pretty not cool,” one lad said, when he learned that in the rotary phone era, if you called someone who was using the phone, you wouldn’t be able to talk to them, and they wouldn’t even know you had called.

It occurred to me it has been a long time since I have heard a busy signal. These days, if the person being called is already using the phone, most calls go directly to voice mail.

That made me feel old, too. I remember the days before we even had answering machines.

When we finally got answering machines, they weren’t even digital. They recorded messages on cassette tapes.

I suspect if one were to look, one could probably find a YouTube video about kids trying to figure out what a cassette tape is, as well. I think I’ll leave that for another day.

Anyway, the kids in the video were told what the rotary phones were. Even then, some of them couldn’t quite figure out the separate handset thing.

They couldn’t grasp the concept of dialing the phone, either.

They could see it had numbers and letters arranged in a circle, but they couldn’t quite work out how to use it.

The operation of the phone was explained to them, and the expressions on their little faces were an indication of how primitive they thought it was.

They didn’t seem to like the idea of going through all that trouble every time they wanted to make a call.

Nor did they like the idea that “in the old days,” the only way you could talk to someone was if you were at home to use your phone, and the person you were calling was at home to answer theirs.

“Yikes!” was one young lady’s response to that awful scenario.

The children in the video tried to figure out how to send a text message using a rotary phone. They were not impressed when they learned this wasn’t even possible with the old technology.

One girl summed up the reactions of most of the kids in the video.

“I don’t want that phone,” she said. “I want to keep my iPhone.”

Watching the video made me feel ancient, but I suppose we must be willing to laugh at ourselves.

Throughout history, each generation has scoffed at the technology that was new when their parents or grandparents were young.

The problem today is that technology is changing so quickly.

A link to the video can be found on the Herald Journal website, www.herald-journal.com.

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