Sunday, August 24, 2014

APP - Another Phonic Program

Time was, when one wanted to make a phone call, the process involved nothing much more than finding the number in the telephone company-issued phone book, picking up the “receiver” and “dialing” the number. One then heard either a sound that told you the phone you had called was ringing, or that it was already in use (busy) or you actually heard someone say “Hello.” Oh, do I have to define some of those terms?

“Receiver” referred to a black object, shaped like a dumbbell, that had a microphone at one end and an earphone at the other. It fit your hand, and if you were an adult, the earphone was pressed to your ear and the microphone was in front of your mouth. I don’t know if there is significance in using the term “dumbbell,” but unless you were talking or listening, it was “dumb,” and it was more than likely an instrument owned by a “Bell Telephone” affiliate. But that’s another story.

“Dialed” was another term of art. It meant sticking your fingertip, or perhaps a pencil or similar object in a small round holes, itself one of ten in a round, wheel-like plate attached to the base of the telephone, and which, by placing a fingertip in the hole corresponding to the number you were dialing, and turning the wheel as far as it would go before releasing it, actually (through the magic of electrical (not electronic) contacts, activated some switches between you and the person you were calling, and “dialed” the number. Enough tech lesson for today.

What I wanted to comment on is the generally held idea that we are better off with things generically called “apps.” That is, I suppose, modernspeak for “application,” a word with meanings, but in this case referring to little computer programs that do things for you. Mostly expensive things that often get you into trouble, but that too, is for another day.

I’m not complaining. I use “apps” myself, or rely on the one closest to me to use them for our mutual benefit, such as telling us where to go (really, not metaphorically) or when we should be somewhere that we are also being told the above. And they do save time, find things or places we need (at least we think we do), and perhaps things even my imaginative brain can’t dream up. Living as we do in what is known as a service economy (as opposed to a manufacturing economy), we have been led to believe that anything that does something for us, or does part of something for us, regardless of why or what, is generally good. In fact it has created an entire economic and social design for living that puts some or much of what we do or want or get, literally in the palm of the hand. And people say, “Isn’t that wonderful? Isn’t that convenient?” Well, not really.

Convenience was when you walked into a store, when a floor-walker asked it you needed assistance, when a clerk showed you the options available and described the good and bad points based on what other shoppers had said or even on personal experience or observation. One might even have formed an opinion for one’s self before leaving home.

The “app” I liked best was to simply say to the clerk: “Charge it to my account, and have it sent to my home.”

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