Rotary Phones and Tube Radios

I was looking at my page on Facebook today… someone who is a friend of mine on there had joined a group that was called “I am so old that I used a rotary phone”.

Count me in.  In fact, I have a couple functional Rotary Phones here in the house.  I’ve got a bunch of oddball technological toys that I collected over the years that are now so old that they couldn’t be fixed if I wanted to.  On the other hand things that old were made so that they would last from then to today even if they were used daily so they’re still working.

Complex sentence isn’t it?  Maybe a run on or two?

Anyway, I was thinking about the things I have in the house that are remnants of another era technologically and I have been surprised at how long I tend to hold onto things.   I’ve got two Rotary Phones that are older than I am.  One is a candlestick phone that would work well in one of those old Roaring 20s movies where everyone in Chicago was shooting at each other.  The blasted thing could be classified as a weapon since it is made out of iron and solid brass and has a “trumpet” on the front that is made of Bakelite.   A plastic that would shatter if you dropped it Just So, but since you don’t it won’t break.

The other phone was one out of a store in Philadelphia called Strawbridges that was bolted to the side of a desk.  The bell on the phone comes in a box that would break your foot if you dropped it from your knee on it, and the phone itself has a handset that is solid iron… or so I think.   Massively heavy and meant to last. 

Another thing would be Dad’s Radio, a 1956 Blaupunkt AM, FM, Longwave, Shortwave “Hi Fi” tube radio.  I got started listening to shortwave radio as a two and a half year old kid because they did stories on the BBC World Service back then.   It still works.  In fact, that old radio has a sound that is warm and wonderful.   I can still push the button on it and it will warm up and give me sounds from far away if I like, although if the tubes needed to be replaced, there’s just no hope.    Tubes predated Transistors and Integrated Circuits and if you look at them when they were powered on they’d have a red glow that would actually make the circuit work.  Electrons going from the Cathode to the Plate through a semi vacuum. 

I don’t have to go that far back in history though.  Thanks to a good friend in New Jersey, I have a Zaurus handheld computer.   That machine is about the size of your hand and I use it when I go places like Commission meetings to take down notes, and I have used the thing on the dais when I had my Community Affairs Advisory Board meeting to help us work out the budget.  I don’t think it helped the rest on the board, but it certainly helped me keep things right.

Things turn around so fast that now you don’t get to know your tools like we used to.  Maybe that isn’t always a bad thing since things typically get better and more efficient and sell cheaper.   On the other hand, as anyone who knows me, it also implies that whole Planned Obsolescence thing that I dislike so much.

For now, I’ll keep my 1950s phone that is connected up to a “SIP” Box and my network so I can make free phone calls to people anywhere in the US.  It looks great bolted to my desk. 

Oh and the news will be starting on the BBC World Service shortly … so if you will excuse me…

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Note Taking in the Office On a Zaurus?

In my job, I take a LOT of notes.

I have the title of IT Manager for a management company.  Fascinating place, the people are fascinating and there’s a lot for me to learn and grow into.

But I’m not writing about them… specifically.

You see, with any new job, you have a lot to learn (yes, I said that sort of).  With the learning, you end up taking a lot of notes.

I started there trying to remember things then write them down onto a word document and that rapidly fell away.   If you have a good memory, then you’re fine, but most folks have found themselves using that great external memory bank.

That would be what you’re doing now, surfing and searching the internet for information.   In this specific case, my own blather, but in general I say “The Internet Knows All So Go Search For It”.  I have spent full days of more than 8 hours at work plus hours at home doing nothing but research for products to make our job easier at work.  We all have our own personal favorite search engine, and I’ve gotten quite good at finding products and making comparisons.  Just ask me about Security DVR’s, I dare you!

The problem is that when you start a job, any job, there is always a back log of tasks that got missed or simply ignored.  That’s just part of work, it’s normal, and should be expected.  When you’re a new and shiny employee you just don’t have all the information and don’t quite know what to ask, but you do know that when you’re there “on the ground” you will have a lot of questions to ask.

If I can give a new hire any suggestion, it is this:  Never leave your office without an adequate way to take down notes!

I did that for a bit and found myself floored trying to remember which of the present five things that my co-workers said that I missed and realized that if I leave my desk without my trusty notepad, I am not properly earning my keep.  It has gotten so that if I do leave my note pad on my desk I am asked where it is.

It is hard to miss, it is large, Aluminium, and folds up to cover my notes.  In a pinch I am sure it could be used as a security device.  I do not mean a security blanket although I find myself fidgeting with it in meetings while I’m thinking about some of the other tasks I have to do.

Bottom line is that I have gotten very good at taking lots of notes, then transposing them into that word document.   The document is well over 20,000 words at this point so it may be considered more of a blog.

And there’s the problem.  How do you search something like that?

I used to do the note taking on an old Palm Pilot.  Palm 3C (Color) or a Sony Clie.   Nice machines for their time but they do present limitations.

Courtesy of a very good friend who was my programmer up in Philadelphia, I now have a Sharp Zaurus SL-6000.  I have just spent a weekend going through web pages trying to find just the right environment to install onto the thing because I can use it as a full computer.   Once I get the environment “stable” I will be bringing it to work to try it out, but for now I am back to Pad and Paper and hoping for the best.

Thank you, Joe B.  You’ve done me a lot of good… the check will be in the mail tomorrow morning!

Really it will be…The Mail box is right in front of the desk at work if I can get away from the office without the note pad!