Winter 2012

Photo Finish

Photo Finish

Old-school telephone sculpture in Quad

(If anyone has any idea exactly who made this sculpture or the one that appears to be the Alberta Coat of Arms in the background, please let us know.)

Call Me

It’s all about the telephone

It seems each generation looks back at the previous one and laughs about their method of communicating over distances. First, there’s the precursor to the telephone, the telegraph, whose line might be cut so train robbers could build a bigger lead on a pursuing posse.

Then comes the cranking phone—like the one lovingly fashioned here out of snow in Quad. These phones depended on switchboard operators to connect callers through such exotic alphanumeric appellations as fairfax 5-8297 or mutual 9-0647 (picture Humphrey Bogart turning Mary Astor over to the police in The Maltese Falcon).

Then come dial phones that still connected through a central system of operators, whose time is numbered as the operators’ role diminishes when everyone can direct dial. These early dial-up calls are often on party lines that have different rings to let listeners know which party is being summoned. You might also pick up the phone to make a call only to hear a conversation already in progress.

Next up is the exotic push button phones that soon become indispensable as callers are forced to do more of the heavy lifting when it comes to actually connecting with a person by prompting the phone to direct their call appropriately. Then there’s the cordless phone, followed by the mobile phone, followed by the cell phone, followed by the smartphone followed by the... who knows? Phone implants?

One thing is certain, actually talking on phones has given way to texting as evidenced by the students walking through Quad today, heads down as they thumb messages at a furious rate. Phones are now also about games, and Google, and apps and pics. Looking at this picture makes one wonder if those two students in the background had any idea that one day they’d have a phone so small it could fit in their back pocket and, well, take this picture.