Memories of Childhood – The Telephone

Tuesday 23rd February

Well of course like almost everyone else we knew we didn’t have one.  There was a red phone box at the end of our road which invariably smelt of piss and would often have a queue of people waiting outside to make a call, pennies in hand.  In posh dramas on TV the telephone was always a point of interest and wonder to us kids – what must it be like to have a real phone in your house?  I can even remember one day our whole class being marched out to a public phone box and shown how to use it, press button A, and if no answer button B (if I remember correctly).  Then slowly phone use started to spread and like TV before it, owning a phone was a status symbol (poor people still had to rely on the public phone box).  You also had to wait weeks or months even for a line to be connected in the pre-privatisation British Telecom, although it used to make a profit it was still privatized during the Thatcher years.

I had a phone in my flat in Finchley, I think it was already connected when I moved in.  Calls were expensive and we used it frugally and I could remember the numbers of my parents and a few friends – a feat no-one can achieve today.  As I lived in London my number kept changing (01 then 07 and 08 then something else before settling on 0207 and 0208) which was more than frustrating.  The first mobile phones were shown on tomorrow’s world and they were huge, the size of a brick and you couldn’t get a signal most places; only top business people had them. Now we have phones which are connected to the internet and have millions of apps (mine excluded) which can switch on your heating or tell you some useless information.  I use mine strictly for phone calls and texting, and could really live happily as I did back in the Fifties with neither.  The next big thing will be that your phone is your credit or debit card which will bring even more stress, as I am always losing mine.  And even flying now, several people haven’t printed out their boarding pass but have it on their phone – now what happens if their phone dies just before boarding?  It is quite amazing just how far phones have come, and how quickly they change; companies like Nokia, Blackberry and now Samsung have come and will presumably go.  Maybe soon we will all be chipped and have speakers implanted in our ears and will all be connected all the time, who knows?