You’ve heard this song before, here’s another verse.

I’m probably older than everybody in this room…”

As a kid on Grandpa’s dirt farm in Southwest Texas, we had PARTY LINES. All the homes -7 or so - along one long country road were served by the SAME length of copper wire from The Phone Company. When one phone rang, they all rang. When the line was in use… well, you waited.

I think the only reason the farm house had a phone was to “cover the shop”. Grandpa was an area go-to tractor mechanic and had a garage/shop in a nearby town with a population of about 400 (so, not to be confused with The City, which was down the highway… or The Big City, which was even further down that same highway).

Some may think it’s a NEW feature but, well before I was born, calling the shop ALSO rang at the farm house.

Our phone number was 21

two LONGS and a SHORT

Grandpa gave out free calendars to area farmers so they’d know his phone number.

EVERYONE heard ALL the rings… honor system on only picking up calls meant for you. Not the best arrangement, but acceptable when the alternative was nothing. No phone meant a DRIVE somewhere. We were only a little jealous of the people in The City who had their own separate phones.

Yes, it could be the “gossip line”… people listening in to your personal calls. Or simply tying up the line, which would be BUSY to anyone who called. No voice mail, but there WAS a chance of leaving a message with a neighbor on the party line to be relayed to you.

Still, the phone was/is CLEARLY a practical productivity tool.

I dreamed of having my own phone in my own home… but never dreamed of the day when the comic book Dick Tracy iWatch would come to life. The transition to personal cell phones was amazing enough, actually… the productivity gain TO BE HAD was instantly felt.

Now, with SMART PHONES and carrying the power of the internet everywhere, it’s mind-boggling!

Humans will never turn our backs on technology that helps us connect in new or different ways but, in our Pavlovian response to shiny objects, sometimes forget about the past…

…and the lessons to be learned there. Here is one:

Who’s Listening In?

Just like the old telephone Party Line, it would be smart to peel back the covers when engaging technology, especially with our smart phones… at least, at the beginning of a “relationship”… to see who is listening in.

What seems private, may not be. What seems innocuous, may not be. What seems helpful, may not be.

Just learn the truth and make an INFORMED decision the next time you:

  • talk to someone on a phone
  • text someone
  • follow an interactive map
  • send an email
  • install and/or use any app
  • browse the internet
  • click a link
  • request help from a voice assistant…