Farm Ireland

Sunday 23 October 2016

How did we ever get by without mobiles and the web?

Joe Barry

Published 20/01/2016 | 02:30

'It is easy to forget the time it used to take to make a simple phonecall'
'It is easy to forget the time it used to take to make a simple phonecall'

My phone line was down recently thanks to one of those many winter storms which we will all just have to get used to.

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While checking my email on a neighbour's PC, someone commented that the changes in technology since I was a child must seem amazing. Bloody cheeky of them really as I don't consider myself to be that old, but it is amusing to recall the horrors of party lines and those awful old Bakelite phones with the handle you wound to contact the local operator.

Everything happens so instantly these days, it is easy to forget the time it used to take to make a simple phone call which was the only means of communication other than the post. When you did get through, there was still no certainty the operator would be able to connect you to whoever you were calling.

It did have some advantages though as when attempting to be connected to a neighbours phone you might be told by the operator "Ah sure you needn't bother trying. I saw them drive by half an hour ago and they haven't come back yet".

Or better again was being told that the person you wished to contact had called in to get stamps or whatever and said they were going to Dublin for the day.

All valuable information and in its way, perhaps better than the awful taped messages we have to sit and listen to nowadays while an electronic voice tells us "All our lines are busy. We are sorry we cannot take your call but in the meantime press two and a member of staff will be with you as soon as possible". Is this progress?

Certainly not, but I cannot imagine now doing without mobile phones, emails or internet access.

Everyone from the age of four upwards seems to have a mobile phone these days and it is wonderful to be able to stay in touch, wherever in the world you might be.

A simple text message tells us that a son or daughter has arrived safely in China or Africa or wherever and also informs us when our single farm payment has arrived in our bank account.

All very useful stuff, as is Skype which enables us to talk face to face to friends or children abroad. When I have finished typing this, I will re-read it, remove the inevitable errors and then with the press of a button, email it to the Farming Independent office where it will arrive within a few seconds.

When I first started writing for the Indo, I had to type the text, print it and then post it to the editor.

If there were pics to accompany it then I had to have them developed and mailed also.

We then progressed to saving articles on floppy discs (remember them?) which avoided retyping but they still had to be posted.

Nowadays, with a few clicks on the mouse, images can be attached to the original message and again, sent instantly.

It really is so quick and convenient but it took a degree of pain to learn how to use everything and keep abreast of all the changes.

I was in my 40s when I decided to learn to type and went to evening classes where I was one of only two middle-aged men among a horde of teenagers.

We watched in envy as the youngsters pounded away happily on their typewriters while our hands ached with the effort.

But eventually, after a lot of hard graft I got there and can now fly through correspondence while rather nastily laughing at friends who still laboriously tap away with one finger.


Laptops, the internet and email give us the freedom to work from virtually anywhere.

I don't however use internet access on my mobile as I feel that is the final straw and too much of an intrusion. The same applies to Facebook.

One has to keep it all in perspective and not allow the internet to take over our lives.

Books are still my first choice of reference when researching most topics even though it's handy to sometimes "Google it".

Isn't there something sad about seeing a group of people standing at a bus stop or sitting in a restaurant and all staring at their phones? What is wrong with chatting to the person next to you?

Modern phones are brilliant but we also need to remember the importance of good old fashioned friendly face-to-face conversation.

Indo Farming


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