A realization came to me the other day like a bell going off. Three bells actually.
My phone dinged to tell me I had a new text message, my tablet dinged to tell me I had a new email in my inbox and my computer dinged to tell me I had a new Facebook notification.
I’d say this all happened “virtually simultaneously,” but the double entendre would have been too much.
Not to mention I can’t spell “entendre,” which is why we have newspaper editors.
Despite all the ringing in my ears I realized that it’s possible I’m over-connected. I find myself toting an ever-growing entourage of power cords, USB adapters and earbud wires—a snarl of white cables that each plugs into its own gadget.
I have multiples of most: several around the house, two in the car (one’s a spare) with cigarette lighter adapters, and a couple in my computer bag.
I have more cords than the Los Angeles Philharmonic on variety night.
(That was a music pun on the word “chord.” Disregard it if you want to. It would have been funnier if delivered orally.)
It’s a hassle, but none of these cords can be left behind because one of my devices might—heaven forbid—run out of batteries, and then I might miss something important.
You know, like someone posting a funny cat picture to my Facebook wall or an email from Amazon with purchase suggestions based on my interests. (My “interests” being created by computer-generated logic based on something I off-handedly searched once last week.)
I’ve grown accustomed to all these dings and buzzes and rings and beeps and jingles and chimes and whirrs and tootles. They let me know I’m still connected no matter where I am, like an aural security blanket.
Except when they all go off at once and I’m left standing in the middle of my own sound pollution, knee-deep in the melodic muck of an acoustical garbage dump. Then, if only for a moment, I think romantically about the early days of communication devices.
Turns out it all started in 1669, when English natural philosopher, architect and polymath Robert Hooke connected two soup cans with a tight wire.
Things were then pretty quiet until 1872, when electrical engineer Elisha Gray founded the Western Electric Manufacturing Co., although he had no idea why because all he had were a couple of old soup cans.
But only four years later a Hungarian named Tivadar Puskas invented the telephone switch board exchange since he had so many soup cans, on account of him being so Hungary. He later went on to work with Thomas Edison, whom I mention because you’ll actually recognize his name.
Things finally got exciting on Oct. 9, 1876, when Alexander Graham Bell became the very first man in history to make a two-way call. It was between Cambridge and Boston, to order take-out Chinese.
Then only three days later Alexander Graham Bell Jr. became the very first teenager in history to tie up the family’s only line for hours trying to convince his girlfriend to hang up first.
This is a problem most of us don’t face anymore. In fact, I have a hard time remembering what life was like when phones were tethered to the wall, laptops were where your dog slept and tablets were pads of paper with a Native American’s face on the front.
In fact, that memory is the only thing around here not ringing a bell.