Technology compresses distance, time zones

“It’s long distance!” used to tell you the telephone call was important.
When making a Christmas long distance call, you were connected from operator to operator. It often took several attempts to go across the country.
In our household, the timer was set on the stove to tell us when to hang up because long distance was expensive.
Now, we can dial anywhere in the world and can expect someone to answer.
I can remember my mother anxiously trying to call Neepawa, Man. at Christmas or on her mother’s birthday. She would dial “0” and the local operator at the Bell office here in Fort Frances would answer.
That operator then would begin the process of trying to route the call through to Winnipeg and then on to Neepawa.
While by today’s standards the call would seem to take forever, back then if the call went through on the first attempt, it seemed like a miracle.
The local operator would have connected to a Thunder Bay operator, who then would connect to a Manitoba telephone operator, who finally would connect to Neepawa.
When my father began his call to my Aunt Marguerite, who lived in Denver, Colo. at the time, the call would jump from Thunder Bay to Toronto to a U.S. state and then hop-scotch across the country to Denver.
Anywhere along the route, a switchboard could be filled and the operators would have to back up and try and go around to reach the final destination.
Sometimes the time to connect to your party took longer to make than the actual conversation.
Those operators were replaced by mechanical switching devices, and then computer devices so that today from any phone you can dial anywhere in the world. Long distance really doesn’t make any difference.
In the old days of long distance, everyone spoke louder into the phone. One could feel the distance separating the parties on each end of the line.
I thought about the old mystique of long distance calling with my son living in Korea. Today is his birthday and Marnie and I will call him.
Our biggest decision is whether to call before 9 a.m. or after 8 p.m. our time. We have to track the difference in time so we don’t call him in the middle of the night his time.
We will not use the phone for this call, but will rely on Skype to speak. This Internet program makes the call free if we are talking computer to computer, or computer to land line (there is a minor fee if we call to his cellphone).
The call also happens at the speed of light.
And talking through the computer, we will speak face-to-face. And it will be as if he is sitting right in the room with us.
The distance and the times zones will have been compressed.

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