THE CALLEE STRIKES BACK

The very first annoying phone call was made on Friday, March 10, 1876 to Thomas Watson in Boston, Massachusetts.   Watson was Alexander Graham Bell’s assistant and was probably on his break and having TGIF thoughts when he received the world’s first telephone call.  It was from his boss down the hall.

If Watson thought fast he could have replied, “You have reached Thomas Watson. Your call is very important to me. Please leave a message at the signal and I will get back to you as soon as possible…..BEEP!” Then he could have finished his coffee and donut.

Actually, that wouldn’t have worked because Thomas Edison didn’t invent the recording machine until the following year. Faking a busy signal wouldn’t have been a good idea either since Bell knew that he and Watson had the only two telephones on the planet.

It’s remarkable to learn that Bell foresaw that his wonderful creation might not be completely beneficial to the civilized world and could become an instrument of intrusion. When he later went on to other scientific endeavors he refused to have a telephone installed in his study to avoid interruptions of his thought processes.

By 1886 over 150,000 Americans had telephones, but they couldn’t call Bell until after working hours when he was eating his dinner, a situation we’re all still stuck with.  How painfully prophetic the great inventor was!

Although I’m on the official Do-Not-Call List with over 200 million other Americans, the uninvited, unwelcome calls continue in spite of the risk of a $16,000 fine for one illegal ring up and higher penalties for repeaters.

Since Bell anticipated this negative offshoot of his invention he should have incorporated some kind of proactive element or at least the suggestion of one. It would be satisfying if we could press a button to send a mild, but unpleasant electric shock into the headset of a meddlesome telemarketer or perhaps demolish the circuitry of a robotic peddler.

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