Sunday, March 05, 2006

Luddite Adventures

I have to have a phone. But if I have to have one, I want one that does not beep, whistle, ullulate, squeek like a cicada or play the opening bars of any piece of popular classical music.

I have the (mis)fortune to live near a string of antique and junk shops. I argue that I needed a real phone. I had a nasty cheapie plastic touchtone that was getting extremely difficult lately. Horrid piece of junk, the buttons would only work one time in three. When you picked up the receiver you had to push the clicker down several times to get the buttons to work. I needed a new one so I looked in the phone store for something I could afford and that would not offend my sensibilities too much.

And those two criteria proved far beyond the capacities of the electonics manufacturers of our times. You should have seen the confused look on the poor young fellow's face when I asked for a rotary dial phone. Bit like the time I scoured Toronto shops for a clock you have to wind up. (Imagine the fun I had trying to explain the notion of 'winding a clock' to some of the semi-literate savages they keep behind counters in posh Bloor street shops.)

"You know," I said to the poor blighter, "like your grandmother used to the olden days..." just then his shirt pocked started playing the opening bars of Mozart's Marriage of Figaro and we both were looking confused.

The poor kid tried to make me get a cell phone. Just think about that for a second. I'll type it again...

He. Tried. To. Make


get a


It's OK, I'm sure he's fine now, after a bit of rest in a darkened room.

I have long thought that today's cell phones were designed by people who grew up wanting to be Captain Kirk. Come on! Don't those things look EXACTLY like a communicator? You can even get one with a speaker so you don't have to hold it up to your ear, but can hold it in front of you like Kirk know it's true. Nokia's even got a line of phones/blackberries that they call "Communicators."

Anyway, the upshot was that once again, I found what I wanted in a junk shop.

(I hate to imagine what are the larger implications of that fact.)

I brought it home today and am very pleased. Now my 1936 Underwood typewriter has something to keep it company. It has been such a long time since I used a rotary dial telephone that I had forgotten how nice it was.

In fact, much nicer than I remembered. When I was a kid, the R.D. phones were the late model plastic ones and the quality of construction of most mechanical devices was sailing downhill on a rocket-powered bobsled.

This phone is metal, weighs around six pounds so I'll know just what to swing when the burglar breaks in to steal all my expensive electronics. The action of the dial has a lovely smooth machined feel to it that you can't find in these terrible times of i-pods and other horrible little tweaking and beeping plastic boxes.

And yes. It works. It has been adapted to have one of those standard phone jack thingies and I just plugged it in. The only problem I have is that after such a long time since I used a rotary dial phone, without realizing it, I have memorized most of the phone numbers I use not from a string of digits but from the pattern of the key pad.

* ~ * ~ *

It's not even that I hate the modern world so much. I use CD's and telephones. I have a blog after all!

I just argue that the aesthetics are all wrong. I don't think I ever wanted to live on the set of a late '60' science fiction show and if they were to give it a moment's thought, neither would anyone else.

I mean, really, which seems more homey to you? Where would you rather wake up tomorrow morning?



M. Alexander said...

Don't ask my husband, he would pick the wrong picture!

How about a phone that whistles "we wish you a Merry Christmas"? That is our current ring and I've gotten sort of attached to it now.

I just imagine the ACLU lawyers having to hear Christmas carols played over and over in their own level of hell and I smile.

Mark S. Abeln said...


I have one of those phones.

The Bell System put a huge amount of effort into designing those things: it had to be durable, lasting for decades without needing repair. It also had to look good, in a universal way: be it in a lady's parlor or in an executive boardroom. It had to survive toddlers using it as a hammer and still be able to take a good polishing. It was one of the early products of "industrial designers", who applied classical rules of beauty to technological products.

Another product like that is the White Rodgers thermostat, which you probably have on your wall: it was designed by an industrial designer, and an engineer (my father).

I also have a tube radio.


Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

The shop I got it from seems to specialize in phones, radios and phonographs of previous eras. I am looking very hard at a wind-up cabinet victrola he's got. I have wanted one for donkey's years.

But I need a kitchen/dining table much more urgently. The John Muggeridge Memorial Latin Mass Society and Supper Club is languishing without a venue.

Marc the polar bear said...

The new black video iPod is very slick looking. Very Traditional. Especially if you watch an old biblical epic on it. Definitely something all Trads should have. :-) Carry your complete classical music collection around with you. I am tempted to use mine at NO mess, but I think evn with black headphone wires, it would be too conspicuous.

I believe that there are some great new techno goodies out there, but I prefer those that are actually a mere positive extension of what has come before. Cell phones are not. Bloody nuisance. I dont want a phone that takes pictures, or sings, or plays music, or surfs the web. Simple voice or face to face communication is enough. I like MP3 and later technology because it enables mme to listen to old audio material I havent heard of in years, or never before. Digital cameras are logical and handy extension of film ones. Digital video though still hasnt taken off as greatly as some thought it might. I also like the new LED flashlights that are available. Improving on an old idea in a big way.

I like my Mac, but the time will come when I will have to live without it a lot more. A blessing. I would love to exchange my old truck for a horse and sledge/buggy, or a dog sled.

Now I really want one of these (well i have one, but a REAL one would be great for any Dark Lord of Tradition)

Also one of these, (again a REAL one, although the toy one is fun)

Ah well. One must dream.

Jeff said...

"ome of the semi-literate savages they keep behind counters"

Bill Bryson told a story during a book-signing about such creatures. He had a friend in London who went into a church goods shop and told the vacant looking girl behind the counter that he wanted to buy a cross.

The girl look at him quizzically and asked, "Do you want a plain one or do you want one with a little man on it?"

Hilary Jane Margaret White said...

I think evn with black headphone wires, it would be too conspicuous.

you can just tell people it's your deaf-aid.

infusion wall art said...

Haha interesting views Hilary, thanks!

wall art said...

To be honest I agree with Marc the polar bear, I didn't know they had iPods in the Arctic!

canvas art prints said...

I'm with wall art on this one, come on find something good!

Mohka Art said...

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