Decoder rings, phasers, cell phones |

Decoder rings, phasers, cell phones

Gary Lindstrom

Soon, the wireless phone companies will be paying us to use their cell phones. The deals they are currently offering are almost unbelievable.

We are getting to the point where having a cell phone is cheaper than having a regular phone. My home phone costs me around $60 a month with long distance. See what I get with my wireless phone plan:

n I have unlimited long distance anywhere in the continental United States for $5 a month. Yes, $5. As long as I am in my home area, I can call anywhere in the United States free. I just have to pay $5 a month access charge and my per-minute charge.

n My per-minute charge is around $50 a month for 500 minutes. That is nearly 10 hours of talking a month. It costs the same to call Dillon or Bangor, Maine.

After 8 p.m. and on weekends, my long distance is included and I have free minutes. Four thousand free minutes a month. That is 66 hours of free minutes, regardless of whether I call Vail or Valparaso. I normally go to bed around 9, so I am not sure if I will ever experience much of that benefit.

n For the same price, I get call waiting and voice mail. I also get 100 text messages.

Text messaging is one of those things that seem silly until you have a burning thought you want to send to someone and you can’t talk because you are in a meeting. If you have the cell phone number or the e-mail address, you can send a short message immediately without bothering anyone around you. Almost like passing notes when you were in high school, without the fear of being caught by the teacher.

Steve Lipsher of the Denver Post talked about wireless communication during his presentation on Afghanistan last week at the North Branch Library. Steve communicated twice a day with his editor in Denver by satellite phone. He sent stories and photographs using his computer and wireless satellite phone. It was almost too futuristic to think about. It was something out of an old science fiction comic book that I remember reading back in the early 1950s.

We all have to remember it was just a few short years ago that this technology did not exist.

I remember mobile telephones that weighed at least 50 pounds and were nothing more than two-way radios. It was not unlike carrying around a briefcase full of bricks. You could push a button that selected a frequency to call to a central station. When you reached the central station, the person on the other end would dial the number for you. Only one person could talk at a time. You had to remember to say “over” when you wanted the other person to talk.

One Sunday 20 years ago, I was at “Not Cow Creek” campground at Green Mountain with my friend Virgil. He had a telephone in his pickup, and we had to drive around in order to find a location where we could get a dial tone. Once we heard a dial tone, we called into Dillon to the Payne Building, where the dispatcher would dial the number we wanted. This was progress. It was a very big deal at the time, and it very often did not work well.

The more we progress, the smaller and more efficient things become. At our current speed, we will have phones installed in our ears and we will go in once a year to get the battery changed. I am not sure I am ready for that.

Gary Lindstrom is a Summit County Commissioner and regular columnist for the Summit Daily News.

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