Whatever happened to …

… telephone jacks?

They haven’t stood up well over the years.

Like everyone that has ever bought a house, we made sure that there was an active phone jack to connect our phone to when we moved in – after calling and activating it – from a neighbour’s phone. And, of course, the jack was in the wrong spot so we had to pay for a service call to get another one installed.

Then came the time when Doug wanted to be connected. I tried just plugging into the home phone but that was cause for great anxiety. “What if our parents want to call and talk?” Geesh.

My initial cheap reaction was to move my online time to after 11pm. But, that wasn’t practical. So I broke the bank and put in a second phone line – this time with three extensions and we called it the “kids’ line”. But everyone knew that was in name only. It was for me to get connected. And, connected I was with my Radio Shack Model 100 with a 300 baud modem. As more and more of my students began to get connected, I bought a USRobotics HST modem and set up a Bulletin Board System (BBS) using Wildcat! software. They could call in during the evenings and upload assignments to me and chat with me and/or each other. We were potentially paperless before it was cool. Obviously, this was long before the recommendation of not connecting with students online. It seems to primitive by today’s standards, amplified by the last year or so.

Essex Wildcat! served me well connecting me, not only to my students, but to other hobbyists. I originally bought a subscription to Compuserve but ended up connecting to a big community of computer people in Essex County and learned so much. Many of those ran their own BBS systems. We even ran events over night and transferred discussion groups with other systems. Such cutting edge stuff! There was also opportunity there to run workshops at conferences.

It was all because of that jack diagonally across the rec room from my chair or on the wall behind the desk in my bedroom/computer room. As I turned off the fan this morning, I looked at the pair of jacks on the wall sitting there doing nothing these days and thought “hey, there’s a blog post in there somewhere”.

The connection was old and copper. I would complain to Bell about our slow and noisy service but was told that my only alternative was to move somewhere with better facilities. I almost fainted last year when it was announced that Bell would be pulling fibre potentially to every household in our little community. I subscribed as soon as they put in a brand new pole carrying the wire and removed the old one which had a terrible lean to it.

For a Sunday, what are your thoughts about this?

  • are you young enough to wonder “what the heck is he talking about?”
  • how fast was your first modem?
  • do you have fond memories of being connected to a Bulletin Board Service?
  • did you ever call Essex Wildcat!?
  • do you still have a phone jack in your house? two maybe?
  • do new houses come with phone jacks?
  • what’s the difference between pulse and tone systems? Which cost more?
  • given that everyone is moving to wireless, do they still put phone jacks in brand new houses?
  • do you still use your phone jack?

As like every Sunday, please share your thoughts in the comments below.

This is a regular Sunday morning post and you can check them all out here.

If you’re cleaning up and find something interesting that might make a blog post, please reach out and contact me.

4 thoughts on “Whatever happened to …

  1. I’m sure it’s no surprise to you that I have these jacks in my house (with no real cell phone). I remember having to get a second line when growing up because of a dial up modem. Now I can stick with one line. With the reliance on cell phones, I wonder if many of the students that I teach won’t have this kind of phone schema as they grow up. It’s interesting to think about. Thanks for the trip down memory lane!


    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Aviva. Even with smartphones, I wonder how the notion of a “phone” has changed with them. There are so many immediate options than taking the time to dial 10 digits or find a name in a phone book.

    I’ve been told that some folks haven’t been able to “cut the cord” because they need a land line for security systems. Since I have not much of value, that’s not an issue here!

    I will confess that even though I have my smartphone with me at just about all times, when I return to the house, I look on the counter where the answering machine used to be. Old habits die hard.

    Thanks for the comment.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: My Week Ending 2021-09-05 – doug — off the record

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