Mobile telephony

The science of translating sound into electrical signals, transmitting them, and then converting them back to sound; that is, the science of telephones.

We have come along way from the days of a telephone that weighed a tonne, was attached to the cable carrying the incoming signals and placed on a special table a few feet from the main entrance of fortunate homeowners who had such a device.

Like the early Model T Ford motor cars, you could have any colour you wanted, so long as it was black!

Our phone from the 40s,50s and 60s was like this. In fact my sister still has it somewhere at home.

Our phone from the 40s,50s and 60s was like this. In fact my sister still has it somewhere at home.

Today the term telephony is used frequently to refer to computer hardware and software that performs functions traditionally performed by telephone equipment. For example, telephony software can combine with your modem to turn your computer into a sophisticated answering service.

Voice mail, text messages and e-mail, are other popular telephony applications, meaning we can be reached at any time from any point on the globe, 24/7.

In the technological world of today we now have mobile phones weighing little more than 100g and measuring about 5 x 124 x 8 mm.

Most children have their own mobile phone by the age of 12 or when they are starting secondary school. Some children as young as five, have their own phone.

We are worlds away from the middle 1960s, when working as a telephone operator, sitting in the Main Telephone Exchange, on the first floor, over St Andrew’s Street Post office in Dublin, Ireland, I was asked to connect an incoming caller to a number in Garristown.

Telephone Exchange Operator

Telephone Exchange Operator

Garristown was/is a village just twenty miles north of where I was sitting, yet a world apart. It was the days before STD – NO! Not STDs. I am talking about Subscriber Trunk Dialling.

I had to call the operator in Garristown Post Office and ask to be connected to the number. In those now far off days, the operator usually lived on the premises. You could hear her turn the handle to connect to the house required.

Two particular calls to Garristown come to mind.

The first attempt must have taken thirty five minutes – the time it would now take to travel the distance by road – There were several episodes of the handle whirring, before the ‘Voice of Garristown’ (that would waken the dead, never mind a neighbour half way up Main Street), announced: “They must not be getting the ring, I know they are at home, so hold on while I run up and see why they are not answering”!

Thankfully, my caller was patient and prepared to wait. It seemed an age before the breathless voice announced. “I’ll put you through now”!

On another evening, around 7.30 pm, I tried to connect a caller to another number (all single or double digit numbers) when the ‘Voice of Garristown’ announced “You will have to call back later, you will not get them now, the mission is on. The priest this year is very long winded, so they’ll be gone for about two hours”! The annual two week Mission/Retreat was being held in the local church and everything stopped for the duration!

With the arrival of computers and the transmittal of digital information over telephone systems using radio to transmit telephone signals, Our lives have changed.

International or other long-distance calls are much less expensive than through the traditional call arrangements. We now have the ability to send voice messages along with text, chat or e-mail instantaneously to any part of the world, without the aid of a ‘Voice of Garristown’ character in the middle of it!

With a miniscule mobile phone device surgically attached to our hips, (metaphorically speaking), we leave constant signals of our travels. Recent stories of missing persons have shown how those very signals helped in finding the area where a victim has last been heard from.

The aftermath of the 7/7 bombings in London, found another use for mobile phones. Amongst the carnage several mobiles were found scattered about. On a few occasions these phones were the only way of knowing who had been lost in the horribleness of the day.

Can you conceive the difficulty the emergency and police services had in finding out the owners names or in trying to notify their families?

Imagine the scenario: “Hello, Do you know the owner of this phone……?”

Do they scan down the list of contacts for an entry for ‘next–of –kin’?

Look at your list of contacts, Who should they call…

  • Loverboy,
  • Boobiebaby or
  • Snugglebug?
  • Would it be Dad- not knowing he is a heart attack about to happen,
  • Mum in the early stages of dementia, who never remembers to switch the phone on?

We should ALL be using ICE. It is not only for our drinks!

Following the above mentioned disaster, the emergency services suggested that we all add an ICE number to our list of contacts.

In Case of Emergency – The name and number of the person you want contacted should you be run over by the proverbial bus, collapse in the street, or a disaster of major proportions occur.

You need to think well about the person you select. You need someone level headed and dependable.

A person who knows more about you than your name. They need to know if you have any major health issues, take medication and if possible the name of your doctor or the practice you attend. Please be sure to ask their permission or at least tell them you are listing them as your ICE number.

It could save your life!

Now while you are at it, if you have elderly parents, children, or grandchildren with mobile phones, why not talk them through adding an ICE number to their phones.

It could save their lives!

I have a touch screen phone, so my ICE number is visible on the screen and easy to access. Yes, It is Elly.

I entered it as follows:

First name: ICE 1 Elly Parker (having a short name makes it easier)
Last name: Daughter (this way they know the relationship of who they are calling)
Mobile phone number: xxx xxx xxxx
Landline number: xx xxx xxx xxxx
Email address. ————–

At the back of a passport there is a page to give the details of a Next-of-kin, so why not on a phone? We all carry phones these days , but not everyone has or carries a passport everywhere they go.

It might save our lives!

This interesting topic Mobile telephony was brought to us this week at the suggestion of Ramana. I hope you find it helpful.

39 thoughts on “Mobile telephony

  1. nick

    I remember the earlier days of phones very well. Shared lines, lots of background crackling, putting in a request for a long-distance call. It all sounds antediluvian nowadays. But I still scarcely use my mobile. I have no need to keep in constant touch with a hundred people. My landline is quite adequate.

    I have all my ICE details in my filofax, which is always in my bag. I don’t want to cause the emergency services a big headache at some later date.

    1. Grannymar

      Nick, the world has moved and we coped with all of it! I use my mobile to suit me. I use it to let Elly know I have survived having coffee with a hatchet man I picked up on the internet!! 😉

  2. nick

    PS: I still remember my childhood phone number – Byron 6525. At that time some of the London exchanges were named after poets.

    1. Grannymar

      That made those numbers easy to remember. I remember our childhood number, it had six digits, one of which was changed moving us to a different exchange and a single prefix has since been added and is still used by my sister! I can still ream off the phone numbers of my uncles and aunts as well as close family friends from those days.

  3. Mike

    Back when we first got married, June 1972, I was in the Navy, and we were far away from family most of the time. For the first 6 months we didn’t even have a phone. If we wanted to talk to anyone we had to walk a couple of blocks to the nearest pay hone. In ’75 or ’76, I called home once from Scotland. It was a relatively short collect call and we anticipated it would end up costing as much as $75 dollars. We never got a bill for it!

    Saying goodbye was always hard when we left from a family visit or when I left to go on patrol. It was just too expensive to stay in touch — impossible, of course, when the boat was submerged.

    With the modern cellular phones, though, I’ve noticed that the tearful goodbyes are not as hard and not as tearful — sometimes, there’s no tears at all. Just pick up the cell phone to call or text. It almost makes 3 counties away (Mel) or 3 states away (Jes) seem like just on the other side of town except when you want to talk face to face.

    Oh, wait! now, there’s also facetime (video phone calls).

  4. Rummuser

    ICE is a brilliant suggestion. Implemented just like you have.

    I can tell some really hilarious stories about the old time telephone operators, but they fall flat in translation into English. Just a sample. “Please wait Sir, one gentleman is connected. As soon as he disconnects, I shall connect you.”

    1. Grannymar

      Do you use the ICE system in India? If not why not work with your doctor, police and emergency services to implement it. Hopefully it could go viral.

  5. Maxi

    GM, the more I get to know you the more you amaze me. Still, it doesn’t surprise me in the least that you were a phone operator.

    Elly must be proud to have such an “upgraded” mom.
    blessings ~ maxi

    1. Grannymar

      Maxi, I was a phone operator from about the age of five. I loved to run and answer the phone at home. I quickly learned to recognise the voices. To this day if I have difficulty putting a name to a face, I close my eyes for a second and listen, the name always comes back to me!

  6. nrhatch

    Adding an ICE number is a good idea. Thanks for sharing. Also enjoyed this walk down the telephone wire ~ from wires to wireless in the blink of an eye.

        1. Grannymar

          I like the BSO’s ICE card idea to carry it in a wallet or purse. We need to add that. I do carry an information list that I made up myself. In fact when I go to a hospital or specialist, when asked about medication, I produce a copy of the list. Many have said they wished more patients would do the same,

          It is important to remember to add or delete any changes in medications.

  7. stwidgie

    I’ve just done as you recommended, GM. Thanks for the nudge. :^)

    My own phoney memories:

    I grew up with rotary dial phones, even well after other people had Touch Tone phones with buttons (it did cost extra to have Touch Tone service). I remember an article in the late 70s teaching you how to play tunes with the Touch Tone phone.

    We leased our phone from the phone company (there was only the one). When they finally directed my parents to buy a phone and plug it into the wall, we were flummoxed – there was no plug; it was hard-wired.

    I still insist on having a land line at home. If the power goes out, we generally still have phone service, and the sound quality is much better. I don’t need a cordless phone; this way I can’t misplace it, battery never runs down, reception is never an issue. Must get my dad a new set, though. He keeps banging it on the counter when there’s static – OWW!

    I was delighted when my English friend showed me that you could tune musical instruments to the dial tone which was an ‘A’.

  8. blackwatertown

    Good ICE advice.

    Also – have you been to Marconi’s cottage? (Since we’re talking about telephones.) On the coast between Ballycastle and Fair Head. I used to walk out there when I was wee.

    1. Grannymar

      Marconi’s cottage? Now that is a new one on me, it must be near Torr head, I will have to make enquiries and add it to my list for when I am back at the driving!

  9. Delirious

    Even though I’m not a cell phone person, I have to admit that there are features that I prefer over the old rotary dial phones. For once, dialing is faster. You can even program in frequently called numbers so that you can call them with the push of just one button. But I worry that cell phones are becoming a social crutch to give people something to focus on, rather than having to interact with others in the room.

    1. Grannymar

      Delores, cell phones are only a social crutch if we let them, just like the box in the corner, or nowadays covering half a wall in most living rooms of most homes these days. There are people who watch the TV with half an eye and ear, while twittering or facebooking away to people all over the country about what is happening on screen.

  10. cedar51

    Here in NZ, we had what you called “shared lines” but there were known as “party lines” and could be handy if you wanted to have a quick word with a neighbour, even when they were talking to someone else. You had to remember though your “ring string”

    I remember when we got a push button phone, our house had to have it’s jack-point upgraded because there was nowhere to put the connecting gadget…it was a big ask!

    1. Grannymar

      Shared lines were common here in Northern Ireland although not available across the border in the South. There was a shared line in this house when I married thirty six years ago. I was unfamiliar with them and only realised, when something I had said on the phone was repeated to me by a stranger that I met down the town. I came home and phoned the telephone company, telling them my story, they changed us over to a single line the very next day!

    1. Grannymar

      I keep an old mobile with a pay-as-you-go card for use when I go south, it means I pay local rates and not international for calls and texts. The old phone is handy, but drives me mad at times because everything takes four steps, compared to the touch screen phone I use at home everyday.

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    1. Grannymar


      The ‘Voice of Garristown’ was a real character, you could not make her up if you tried. Then we had a supervisor Kitty, she was out of the Ark and had to put her glasses on every time she wanted to hear what we said!

  12. Frank B Smith

    Great idea, ICE. I will do that as soon as the mobile comes off the charger in about an hour. I remember calling from California to the international operator in Ireland and just hearing it ring and ring, with no answer sometime in the 70’s.

    1. Grannymar

      Thank you Frank, it might save your life some day!

      You cannot blame me for not answering that call to Ireland in the 70s, 😉 I was well gone by then. I had moved to work in private industry in 1968.

  13. Three Well Beings

    What a good suggestion! I never thought about my contacts in just this way. It’s interesting that my daughter’s name is Aimee, so she happens to be my first contact, but you never now how an emergency person would look at the contacts. They might look at the last person I called, who may not be family. This is a really good idea!

  14. The Old Fossil

    My first phone number in Manchester was “2”. Gladys was our switchboard operator for the town and we had the crank phones on the wall. Thanks for such a beautiful journey down memory lane!

    PS I think I’ll make putting the ICE numbers on my phone screen as we speak. I will make them part of the graphic pic that displays so that no one will have to deal with my password to get in!


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