Smoke signals, telegraph, telephone, mobile phones and texting


In the beginning I was not a big fan of short messaging services (SMS). I saw it as an inefficient use of time to disseminate news. When I wanted to communicate with another individual I found the spoken word to be the easiest and clearest.

According to Wikipedia SMS messaging was used for the first time on Dec. 3 1992, when Neil Papworth, a 22-year-old test engineer for Sema Group in the United Kingdom used a personal computer to send the message “Merry Christmas” via the Vodafone network to the phone of Richard Jarvis who was at a party which had been organized to celebrate the event. 

Texting, as it is better known by, is used at least once a week by 97% of Americans, according to the Pew Research Center, with over 6 billion texts sent every day in the United States alone. That number jumps to an unbelievable 18.7 billion when you factor in the world’s daily texts.

Adults, ages 18 to 24 years-old lead the pack by sending and receiving over 128 texts every day.

College students (which I have two, counting my daughter in-law) spend 94 minutes a day texting, on average. (Journal of Behavioral Addictions)

It was in the second quarter of 2008 when texting started to explode in America — coincidently not long after Apple introduced the iPhone — as U.S. mobile subscribers sent and received more text messages per month compared with their phone calls.

I have heard stories (I’m sure this does not include your family) where supposedly sane people have been known to text others inside the same house, even in the same room.

In the beginning I saw no use whatsoever with texts. If I wanted to communicate with someone I just called them. The spoken word is what phones are made for. After all Alexander Graham Bell invented the phone to take the place of the telegraph. The telegraph machine was just like text messaging over wires.

To me it seemed like we are going backward in communication technology — smoke signals, telegraph, telephone, mobile phones and now texting. 

I must confess that in the last couple of years I have grown more accustomed to texts. I first started texting as a quick and easy way to communicate with friends and colleagues, including in contexts where a call would be impolite or inappropriate (e.g., calling very late at night or when one knows the other person is busy with family or work activities).

In another aspect, I have found that texting helps me reach some advertisers when they don’t have good enough reception to receive or make a phone call.

Another way I enjoy texting is through groups. Connie and I communicate with our three children and their significant others by a group text. It’s an efficient way to send a message to everyone at the same time and  then read their replies.

Finally, my latest use of texts utilizes photographs. Many of our advertisers don’t work out of an office with access to a computer. A great way for us to send them a proof of their advertisement is with a photo of their ad sent by text.

Also, if a reader wants to submit a photograph to us for use in an ad or news item, an easy way for anyone to send us that photo is by text.

I still refuse to use a text to carry on a conversation with someone. If you want more than a yes or no answer from me I would rather disclose information with you the old fashioned way, by talking.

I won’t respond to a text message unless it is in the form of a question.

One of the problems we have in society is the need to respond to a text instantly. This habit, and that is all it is, a habit, can turn out deadly when someone is driving. So I won’t respond to a text when I’m driving.

My children, like most kids 6 years-old or older, can text without looking at their phone screens. Youth today have no idea what it is like to live without texting, let alone a mobile phone. I’m sure most don’t remember when it cost extra to send and receive texts.

On the other hand texting and mobile phones would have come in handy when I was in high school. I could have texted mom — “hey don’t worry, I will be a little late getting home tonight as someone let the air out of Ray’s tires at the truck pull in Bland.” 

It turns out she was out driving around town at 1 a.m. looking for me when Ray dropped me off at home. 

Before then I didn’t have a curfew. That is another story.


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