Communication: Then and Now

Back in 1876 an ol’ boy named Bell/ Invented a contraption that we know so well….

Reba’s words get stuck in my head whenever I think of communication through history. But even in 1994 when the song came out, I don’t think Reba ever imagined where’d we be today.

You can get one in your briefcase, on a plane or in your car… — with a camera, and keyboard, music, movies, apps and more.

Just think what Alexander Graham Bell started with a simple telegraph. Samuel Morse added the code forming words with dit’s and dah’s. And soon people were talking clear across oceans in real time.

Are we better off than we were? Where would we be without our cell phones and text messaging or our internet connections?

I’ll tell you first hand, we’re back where we started, dit’s and dah’s otherwise known as Morse code.

It wasn’t that long ago when you wanted to place a call, you first had to dial the operator. If you’re too young to remember, maybe you’ve seen re-runs of The Walton’s or Mayberry? No, how about M*A*S*H? Yeah, they jiggled the receiver to get the attention of an operator who placed your call.

Then we advanced to the party line, now here’s a little ditty to dig up the dirt. In my youth there were five houses on the same line. Sure we each had our own telephone number but before we placed a call we had to make sure the line was free. I really hated the neighbors who enjoyed hour and two hour conversations. I didn’t use the phone often, but when my boyfriend was supposed to call, well it just wasn’t right. If it really was an emergency, I’d just butt into their conversation and ask them to hang up. Made for interesting neighborhood dynamics. Forget about keeping personal information personal, the temptation for some was just too great to eaves drop.

Now we have hands free, Borg apparatus sticking out of heads. We can take pictures and immediately post them to our social media outlets. We can talk while we walk, we can text while we drive. Stop already! I know none of you text while driving, but obviously it happens otherwise why would we need to make laws that are common sense? Why did people listen in to private conversations on party lines?

Now we have GPS in our phones so parents can monitor children, so law enforcement and emergency personnel can locate us. What’s next?

For the crew of Fawkes we’ve had to take a step back in time. As we leave the good ol’ USA, our cell phones and Wi-Fi connections are turned off. We’ve un-plugged and shut down all normal communication with the outside world. Or have we?

Not exactly, we have modern day telegraph and believe it or not the Captain still uses dit’s and dah’s to communicate through the airwaves. We use voice single side band transmissions to get weather updates daily. When we’re out at sea, we can email through the ham bands basic information home and receive important weather files far from land. Our VHF radio hails vessels close at hand and we can carry on conversation or make restaurant reservation.

Our recent history has reinvented the need for ham radio communication, or a flip back to telegraph skills. Remember 911? How could you forget? It was the skills of those historical die hard individuals keeping alive radio communication that acted as a conduit between families and emergency personnel. Same thing for Katrina, the tsunamis and other recent disasters.

Sometimes we have to remember our beginnings because simple is still necessary.

Unplugging has allowed us a richer existence with our neighbor. Remember when we just walked to the hedge to say hi? Now, you find people in the same room texting the person standing next to them. We connect so much better face to face and take advantage of more social opportunities in person.

As a society, are we losing good common communication skills? How about interpersonal relations? I for one am glad we’re unplugged for a time.

Be Sociable, Share!

About Nancy J Nicholson

Nancy J. Nicholson is a wife, mother, writer, and full-time sailor, writing of her adventures and creating contemporary mysteries along the shores of the eastern United States and Caribbean. She fills her time with new friends, exploration, food, knitting and reading.
This entry was posted in Captain's Chair and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to Communication: Then and Now

  1. asrai says:

    Your lyric quoting drew me in, I haven’t heard that song in a long time. probably becuase I stopped listening to country music after high school.

    Communication is changing. We can’t really say if it’s better or worse, since we are in the midst of the change. Face to face time is on the decline, but I have had wonderful relationships via text/email/internet chat and I feel just as connected in this way.

    • Asrai, welcome aboard Fawkes. I agree I’m not sure if we’re better off or not, but living on a sailboat and being able to keep relationships alive through internet and social media is a plus, but I’m not sure that’s the same as the new phone craze.

  2. Carol Roe says:

    Morse code, I really envy anyone that can understand and use the code !
    Some people think I should still be using it as I tend to refuse to jump into the whole techno scene. I tend to put in a toe at a time. ;) Yes we have the computer, nothing fancy. No face book…. horrors! I do use it to keep in touch with distant frriends. My cell phone could be considered a dinosaur, no texting and I do NOT talk or answer it when driving. It is mostly for an emergency. I know, I am OLD… or set in my ways. LOL. Have a great week, hugs…

  3. Great post Nancy! Times and how we communicate are definitely changing. In some ways, I think for the better. In other ways, not so much. I think we all need to be mindful to keep our interpersonal kills in practice. We don’t always have to have that conversation via email – sometimes it’s nice to walk down the hall and visit someone face to face. It’s about being mindful of our little or how much we interact and making sure we are striking a solid balance.
    I get you about unplugging – why do you think we escape to the camp so often. Except for sketchy text messages for emergencies, there’s nothing there so it’s pretty quiet. Unplugging always feels sooo good!

  4. I envy you your unplugged days and suggest they should be mandatory at least a few times a week! Nothing will replace good interpersonal skills and somehow we have to help younger generations appreciate this. Now there’s a challenge!

  5. Duke Verhelst says:

    I love reading your post when I can, what I think is more remarkable is growing up not to far from you and then some of the things you just posted made me stop and think, the song, the party line phones and such. I had my wife read one of your posts here a while back and she asked me “how do you this person”, I told her we grew up some what in the same area, went to school together, “she said this person who is sailing grew up in the country and went to school at NS and now is sailing and writing?” I replied yeah pretty neat huh!!!

  6. We’re bringing up what I’m starting to call the “Facebook generation.” I tutor students in English, and younger kids are writing their essays like they would a text message. I’ve seen smiley faces, and even the <3 heart symbol in their homework assignments. Uh, no. We may be able to communicate more with the world, but I'm not sure we're learning how to communicate effectively.

  7. I have to say a lot more people need to spend unplugged time. It’s so sad to see kids on a date, texting other kids. Entire families with their cellphone set on the table right next to their plate, just in case. Put it aside people, leave it in the car or in your purse or turn it off! spend some time actually LISTENING to the person speaking to you!

Leave a Reply