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    • martha

      I am old enough to remember when a long-distance phone call (from my grandparents' house in Boston, where I would stay for a week every summer, to my home about 30 miles away) sounded like you were talking through a tunnel; and a thunderstorm would interfere with the connection and sound quality. Then by the time I was an adult, you could talk to people anywhere in the world and the quality was fantastic. Reliable, clear, sounded like they were in the next room.

      Now we mainly converse on our cell phones. And I spend so much time straining to hear what is being said. I feel like I am always saying, "Sorry, bad sound quality. Can you repeat that?" Connections fade in and out. You miss half a word here and there. It's not my age, it's not my ears - it's just crappy connectivity. Seems the worst is when my daughter calls me from her Google phone (she has Project Fi for her provider). Typically atrocious quality. And often when she calls me I can't hear her - I only hear my voice repeating back what I just said. I have to say, "Sorry, honey, only getting the echo. Hanging up now, try again." Second try is usually fine.

      I just feel like we have given up a lot for the convenience of carrying the little computer around in our pockets. And you can argue that being available by phone 24/7 is a blessing or a curse. Sometimes both at once.

    • yaypie

      When I moved out of my parents' house after graduating from high school in 2000, I resisted getting a cell phone even though they were starting to be pretty common.

      Instead I had a land line at my apartment and I carried a pager in case someone needed to get in touch with me. The pager could display short emails that were sent to a specific email address, so I shared that address with my friends and family and encouraged them to use it. That way they could get in touch with me when I wasn't home and I wouldn't feel tethered to a phone.

      I hate talking on the phone, so this worked well enough. I only used my land line when I couldn't avoid it. But I still vividly remember being woken up from time to time early in the morning (I have no idea why they always called me early in the morning) by telemarketers trying to sell me long distance service.

      Years later I eventually caved and bought my first cell phone, a Nokia 3390. Its killer feature was that it had a built-in AOL Instant Messenger app. Once I had a phone in my pocket, it no longer really made sense to have another phone that only lived in my house, so I ditched the land line and haven't had one since.

      I still avoid talking on the phone, but when I do, I sometimes note how bad the quality is and how much worse it seems than land lines, just like you do, @martha. I don't miss land lines or telemarketers, but I do miss being able to understand people.

    • Chris

      I feel it even more intensely now that I record some phone calls for interviews and need to transcribe the recordings to get them right. I use a program that relies on Google to convert voice to text and its accuracy seriously suffers from a cell or even a wifi call.

      It's so nice when someone picks up on a landline. I do love being able to walk outside as I talk but damn, even here in the center of Silicon Valley there are 6 different times in any phone call where I get "you're breaking up!"

      Until last year we had this century-old phone in our living room, made in Sweden, and I used it all the time because the sound was crystal clear. Then I'd take a call on my iPhone and it felt like the centuries were reversed.

    • yaypie
      Ryan Grove

      Speaking of old phones, today Tesla is starting to roll out a new software update to their cars, and it seems like they thought it would be funny to replace the phone icon (which was previously a smartphone) with an antique phone.

      Some Tesla owners are confused because they have no idea what it is. One person on Reddit thought it was a gas pump. 🤣

    • bstrong

      My cell phone is rarely used as a phone these days. Talking seems to have been mostly replaced by text messages. A problem for me is that text messages are typically short, and short can be interpreted as curt, and once the receiver applies an unintended tone, you have the recipe for a big misinterpretation.

      One thing I loved about a household land-line is that when the phone rang it was almost a race to go and pick it up. If I picked up the call and the person calling was looking for my mom or dad, it was a chance to chat with an aunt or uncle for a minute. Now calls are made directly to the person, so there is no chance for a surprise catch up with someone.

      I also have fond memories of stretching the coiled up phone cable from the kitchen 12 feet down the hall, around a corner, and into my bedroom to talk with a friend after school. I don't know why, but I loved doing that.

    • dr

      I use ooma VoIP for my landline. It's useful (and sometimesa requirement) for some remote work arrangements that your home is equipped with an alternate voice and data connection. In case you're phone service craters, the switch to landline. In case your WiFi is on the fritz, you switch to mobile hotspot. No excuses.

      To be honest...I mostly text my friends

    • kikoteixeira

      What Brian said reminded me of me in my 17 or 18-teens talking on the phone with the girlfriend for hours then getting scolded by my mother: "Instead of talking to her for 3 hours, you might just as well go there and visit her!!! We need the phone too, you know?!" Wow! Staying up late with the GF in her house... 😎

      International calling from Brazil was so horrible in the 80's that when you told the operator you wanted to place an international call to Panama, she replied back: "What is Panama?"

    • tomstar3000

      I don't really miss not having a landline, but I'm still nostalgic about them. I just remember calling a girl from my junior high and having anxiety about whether or not her parents were going to answer and then having to ask for her. Ahh, good times.

      I also remember when modems became a burden for telephone area codes and more numbers had to be added.

      We went from a whole family sharing a phone number to every family member having their own.

      I got my first Nokia in 2003, I still have the same number. Now I ask, is it time to do away with the area code all together?

    • amacbean16

      We use voip as our house phone and now that we have decent internet connection I love it for 2 reasons:

      I never lose it! My cell phone could be anywhere (and people expect me to have it on me wherever I am) but the house phone has a predictable home.

      The serendipity that Brian mentioned. My kids life answering the phone and get some people skills and chats with relatives in the bargain.

    • Dracula

      .. it was 1970's. We lived in tiny apartments in tall ten story grey buildings about 100 yards apart. We were of pre high school age then.. But I was so excited by physics, I convinced my best friend and partner in crime to build our own telephone between buildings we lived in. We ran a long wire from my parent's second floor apartment, to the seventh story in my friend's building. The "engineering" and logistical chalenges were what made it all attractive to me. I always had a penchant for dangerous and technical mix of things. For one, it was the commie militia who was extremely suspicious of anything that didn't look 'normal' on the streets, and there were no parts available to purchase anywhere, but I was on friendly terms with the "Sir" who maintained the telephone central system, who always had a suitcase full of relays, relays, microphones and speakers. By that time I was also an avid collector of parts from old russian Tv sets people were discarding, and had grown increasingly aware how my mother was getting upset at all the junk I used to bring home. A simple circuit with a transformer, selenium rectifier, piece of wire stretched across tree tops and using the underground common water piping as second wire, microphone and headset, a handcrafted piece from a rubber hose and some candy plastic boxes for mouth and ear pieces. Several attempts to bring "the wire" up failed, until we finally did it. And we could actualy hear each other from our own homes! But the funniest thing was that after this took off, we had both recruited more and more friends from each building to get their wires in too. The system was so crude, that you could not select who you would speak with, everyone was connected, all the times, to a permanent full on conference! To call, one simply placed the mic over the speaker and created that silly whistle that used to happen when positive reaction does. We spent many sleepless nights together, sometimes until some parents got pissed and unplugged their kids. There were some girls parents who weren't really approving of their daughters talking freely on a same line with a bunch of unknown boys!

    • Chris

      I think the startling think is making calls via Alexa. The first time I did it, I wasn't expecting to suddenly be in the conversation in your kitchen without you having to tell Alexa it was okay.

    • martha

      I mostly text or use Messenger to talk to family and friends also, but sometimes you do need to converse. And it is just so exhausting. I have to concentrate to hard to fill in the missing syllables.

    • martha

      I agree that area codes can no longer tell you where the person is located. But you probably need all of those digits just to make the pool of unique numbers large enough? Not a numbers person, to say the least, so just guessing here. Maybe they will need to add more digits at some point as the number of people with phones grows. They probably just still call them "area codes" because that's what we've always called them. The terminology might change.

    • tomstar3000

      I can see a day not too far off where phone numbers are irrelevant. Many two-token authentication platforms require a mobile phone to log into email. I argue that one day all correspondence will be merged into one platform and confirmation of our identity will be the only way to communicate, whether through biometrics or secret authentication key.
      Just thinking out loud.

    • Dracula

      Ipv6 & geoip location is all what's needed. Is already out there, most apps already track everything location related not to mention all the other stuff someone uses on their mobile.

    • kikoteixeira

      Interesting ideas... I like it. Perhaps also think of a way to stop the mailman from dumping 2 pounds of trash through the mailbox every day.

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