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Taking 128 gigabytes out of Apple’s tree of iPhones
gossip bench
This is a 1950s era telephone chair, also known as a gossip bench. It was one of the few phone accessories you could buy in the pre-smartphone era.

 There was a time when your phone didn’t have a name or a cult following.

It was a big thing when they were available in a color other than black. The phone company, in a begrudging admission to changing times, made them also available in beige, white, light green, and red.

When the industry got innovative they offered wall-mounted phones and princess phones. Those who were really extravagant got a princess phone with a rotary dial that was back lit.

You didn’t have to go to a store to pick one up. You called the phone company. They’d send an installer out who was typically middle-aged male. Instead of waiting for hours in a store to get a new phone set up by sales associates who never knew the joy of calling POPPCORN for the time, you’d wait half the day for the phone company representative to show up who then spent half the day installing your phone.

There were no family plans, budget plans, or unlimited plans. There was only one plan, the phone company’s plan. It was real simple. You paid them $25 or so a month. And if you called anywhere more than 10 miles or so from your home you paid extra each time you made a call. The farther away and the longer the call, the more you paid. If you needed to find a number and it wasn’t in the phone directory dropped off on your front door step once a year and in many households was revered as just being a notch below the family bible in how it was handled and cared for, you dialed information. Call information too many times and it was like playing a slot machine you’d never win at. Each extra call over the allotted three a month was 25 cents. And after coming up with the call they’d up charge you to dial it. Compare that today when you just tap an icon reading “dial’ without having to raid you kid’s piggyback at the end of the month to settle the score with Ma Bell.

This is back in a time if a kid was caught playing with the phone there was hell to pay. Today we use phones as pacifiers for 3 year-olds.

Phone etiquette was just a notch below how one acted in a courtroom.

If the phone rang, you answered it. Not doing so was considered rude and impolite. In that aspect much has changed except it is OK to wholesale ignore phone calls but not text messages or Tweets.

Kids never had their own phones. Parents would sometimes indulge their teenagers with their own phone line.

You never lost your phone as it stayed in basically one place tethered by a cord.

Phone accessories were a tad bulky. If you wanted to be swanky you could buy a phone chair that was also known as a gossip bench at a furniture store. It was essentially a seat-table combo with a shelf for the phone book. The seat ran the gamut from bare wood to padded seat to fill blown upholstery.

One never sat in the chair — especially if you were a kid — if you were not on the phone because using the telephone was serious business.

People used terms such as “madam” or “sir” when calling a number they weren’t sure about instead of “hey dude, I’m trying to reach my bro Joe, is he there?”

This trip down memory lane was inspired by a visit to the phone store to upgrade my phone.

I made it clear as I have done in the past when I upgraded that I use the smartphone primarily for three things — making calls even though that is considered archaic in a growing number of circles, work related texts and emails, and to store photos and videos primarily from hikes and such. I do occasionally use a few apps such as for my bank and the weather and freely admit I’m likely to finally download the Wall Street Journal app to use on the days the print edition doesn't make it to my driveway. I also use it as a watch and an alarm clock plus occasionally as a flashlight.

I do not use the cloud.

If you have ever transferred phone content from one phone to another for me during an upgrade, you know what this means. It will take an hour or two.

This time around instead of using a USB cord they used wireless technology. They said it would take a few hours. That was at 2 p.m. Monday. By 7:30 p.m. they gave up, and went home. I was able to retrieve my new phone 20 hours after they started the transfer.

Not having the phone — especially on a work night — was a tad inconvenient. It had nothing to do with the fact I had nothing to stick my nose into. I do not use it to watch TV or movies, play music, text, Tweet, Zoom, Facebook, or do any of the things involving what started out as a noun and have ended up becoming an action verb. On rare occasions I’ll Google an address or search for an old song to drive someone up the wall.

I can live without using a phone to interact with another human being or to access the Internet. I’ve done it for a week at a time when I’m hiking and the phone only gets used for photos, videos, a watch, and an alarm clock to make sure I don’t fall asleep when I’m stretched out on a rock along a mountain lake in the high Sierra.

What I can’t go without on a work day is the phone function per se. More precisely it is the contact information. I can remember the phone number from Wyatt Hardware when I was 6, our home numbers in Roseville and Lincoln growing up, the number for the Squirrel Cage (an old-fashion frosty drive-in my mom owned), contacts when I worked for 20 years for The Press-Tribune in Roseville and virtually every number I called on a routine basis before buying my first cellphone. I can even rattle off old pager numbers. That said I had no clue about the numbers I use daily. That includes the area code that used to tie you to a specific geographic calling area.

The only reason I remember Cynthia’s number is because we got our first cell phones with sequential numbers and have kept them ever since.

What made it maddening is up until two years ago I kept track of all my contacts the old-fashioned way. I will need to remedy that given it is not smart to rely 100 percent on technology.

That said the reason to move to the iPhone 11 was simple — the somewhat better camera. In did add to the storage to make sure the next time I do an upgrade the sales representative that did the transfer can remember to avoid waiting on me the when I switch out phones again.

I clearly am not a techie but at the same time I’m not a Luddite.

Except for the slip up with the contacts I embrace technology but not to the degree I put 100 percent of my faith in it.

Before you start thinking the iPhone 11 is wasted on me, it’s much easy to take on a hike than a digital SLR. And if push comes to shove I can type a story on it if need be.

What Ma Bell offered was one-dimensional although you didn’t have to take tutorials to figure out how to use it given accessing the phone “app” was either by a rotary dial or push button.

That wasn’t the case with Apple that sent me an email to let me know how to use the new iPhone just in case I couldn’t figure how to power it on and do some basic navigating moves.

The brilliance of such a move by Apple instead of providing the basic instructions in a small sheet tucked in the phone box assumes a semi-Luddite taking a byte out of an Apple iPhone likely accesses their email at another device besides the smartphone.