Sunday, December 12, 2021


Some of you are busy readying to celebrate Christmas; others are focused on Hanukkah; and additional people have their celebrations in the offing.   My holiday preparations here at home are quite minimal compared to those sometimes frantic years when my family were all present to celebrate together, or in later years when I travelled to their homes. Since I'm doing so little I've had more time to ponder some of the matters in this epistle length post.   I hope all is going well for whatever you may be doing with decorating, gift selections, baking and more.

Michael Buble'   -- Album "Christmas" -- 10th Anniversary Edition

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas.                                                         

My recent transition from my cell phone to a smartphone has had me thinking about the changes that keep occurring in my life. Like so much in this digital internet world, the technology, even its security, has moved forward at a much faster rate than has the quality of some of the services provided.  The driving force in our capitalistic society where for many monetizing takes precedence over all else -- sometimes even including ethics and morality -- seems to have become the primary driving force in technological companies' operations (perhaps thanks to Wall Street) which is important, but only to a degree, especially after a company's viability is established.

We see this with questions arising about the values of those dictating the operations of social media companies such as Zuckerberg and Facebook; others who own Twitter, Instagram to name some additional ones; also businesses like Bezos and Amazon, Microsoft, Google and more.  Establishing a balance between the best interests of all Americans, especially those of our children, plus what constitutes "enough" for each company's profit-making goals are issues about which many express considerable concern.  Fair distribution of such income increasingly comes into focus given the uneven distribution of wealth in our country.  There are no easy answers.

Existing technology keeps evolving, some ideas developed being replaced before the services they offer are at least as reliable and efficient as what previously existed it seems to me.  Perhaps this is how progress occurs.  The public is subjected to tolerating a decrease in some operation functions that had been achieved by an existing technology, but they are gradually being replaced by the new technology that can't yet provide a previous important mastered feature but may have additional appealing new ones the old technology does not.   We're left with less than what we had, in some respects, while we navigate the treadmill of the latest new device.

Referring to telephone service in this instance is what comes to my mind as wireless cell phones, now smartphones replace our copper-wired landline phones.  The reality is that people are increasingly using wireless phone systems in preference to the wired landlines so the inevitable seems only a matter of time -- that wired landlines will cease to exist.  

Only about 37% of American households now still use landline phones according to Statista as summarized in numerous web site reports such as Digital Information World.  This data was obtained by the local telecommunication company running off the copper phone lines across the country in a report earlier this year.

Despite the declining use of landlines some of the pros and cons of keeping a landline, particularly in the event of an emergency, still apply as described in an older article written by Nicholas Gilmore.   Recent article comments describe individual's situations like my experience where this is true.

This brings into question the conclusion reached by AARP's John Quain in an article earlier this year.  Contrary to what he wrote, not all problems with 911 calls have been resolved as described above -- one problem he didn't address as well as a few others he cites as having been eliminated but have not everywhere either.  Additional commenters, too, have questioned the accuracy of his perceptions about the state of 911 call problems applying everywhere in the U.S.

My own personal experience a few years ago was with a cell phone in my home.  Surprisingly to me, my call went to a nearby city.  I had to be able to speak and tell them what city and where I was calling from.  They then transferred my call to my city's emergency system which also had the capability of identifying my exact location without my having to be able to speak as the landline 911 system does.  

What if I couldn't speak when I first called -- locating me via cell towers could have taken longer.   A 911 call from my home using my landline phone a few years earlier had gone directly to my city's emergency line and they knew my precise location though I could have verbalized then if needed.  All 911 systems today should have the same tracking capabilities as the landline 911 system.  

Note: I was unable to locate current percentages of cell/mobile phone systems that can precisely identify a 911 caller's location as quickly and efficiently as the 911 landline system.  The last figures I read a few years ago were that only less than 50% of cell/mobile phone systems in the U.S. had acquired this capability.  

Check the 911 system where you live to determine if their wireless emergency response system has adapted to be one equivalent to that of a landline phone.  The automatic and immediate location identification is time-saving and doesn't require the caller having to be able to intelligibly speak to say where they are -- both of which can be life-saving critical acts in the event of some medical emergencies i.e. stroke, heart, respiratory, and others.

A recent Forbes article by Mike Vorhaus recognizes Americans are using their mobile phones to replace their landlines.  He also reports having a mobile phone but is keeping his landline and thinks it is very sensible to do so.  He describes how landlines have their "own energy" allowing "landlines to operate completely independent of the household electricity or the general electric grid."  Electric power to the house and grid if lost, over time results in phone batteries dying and the wireless home phone system failing.  Our landlines continue to live on.  

I think about possible earthquakes in California and being able to communicate with the rest of the world after a major disaster.   My landline phone will possibly be more readily operative in such a situation since I "...don't think it will fall as quickly as cell towers thus destroying wireless capability in an earthquake"   What kinds of disasters are you at risk for experiencing where you live?  Hurricanes, tornadoes, blizzards, other destructive forces.

I didn't yet have my smart phone when I  experienced an unexpected sudden extended power outage of about 12 hours duration just before Thanksgiving.  I was certainly glad to have my landline phone then to eventually learn what was happening after several phone calls over time. The landline had to be used because my then cell phone's battery was almost completely run down but I had planned to charge it later that night.   

Another future landline benefit now is I could call my smart phone should it become lost.

Obviously, with these wireless phone and other devices we have become very dependent on batteries so need backup and supplemental energy sources -- reserve energy chargers, solar units, generators -- if we're going to be so dependent on wireless technology.  

Do you keep your tech communication devices fully charged for the unexpected?  What do you have for backup in emergencies?  A few hours outage is one thing, but what about longer outages?  

Are our tech device batteries immune to shortages unlike those for EVs?  Google summary reports for electric vehicles for example:  

"Lithium, nickel and cobalt are the key metals used to make EV batteries.  Analysts believe there is a potential shortfall in the global mining capacity required to extract the minerals needed to manufacture sufficient batteries to meet projected EV demand."

Apparently there is a scramble by countries around the world to acquire the necessary minerals for digital device batteries that might give you pause for what could occur in the future which you can read in this BR article.

There was an era when our  personal time wasn't taken up by riding herd on keeping our devices charged and needing batteries for everything.  Our phone and electric lines once installed just were and we rarely had to give much thought to them.  My-y-y, how that all has changed.

What's interesting to think about is what communication system may replace our smart phones and how long before that occurs?  Don't get too attached to your smart phone because Forbes MikeVorhaus suggests this may be our future (for however long this lasts, I might add):

"...the next disruptor of personal communications -- the messaging service.  Today, according to my recent national survey of U.S. households, over 75% of the US population with connection to the Internet and/or mobile phone services, use a messaging service at least once a week.  It is quite clear where this trend is headed because 91% of 18-34 year olds are using messaging services regularly, vs. only 56% of the over 55 year old age group.

"Messaging services are universally used by the 18-34 year old age group.

"Eventually the messaging service may well challenge the "phone" function of the smartphone.   Messaging services not only offer text, but also robust voice services, free, over the Internet.  And remember, your smartphone is also a TV."

On the other hand, or additionally, Augmented Reality Technology is being developed with headsets, glasses, or computers that can be worn on the head.  AR is thought by some tech leaders to be that smartphone replacement possibly in the next decade, but we'll not explore that here now.

Personally, I don't care for the idea of wearing such technological devices on my head, but who knows what most of our population, especially large numbers of influential younger generations, will adopt using.  Will other older systems like our smartphones then be gradually phased out like the phone landline so we're forced by a user majority into using a Messenger Service, AR, or something else?  Perhaps we don't have to have just one dominant system for all like we use to for so many years, or do we?


  1. I have been on vacation for decades now and I don't need to do anything special now! I use WhatsApp, Facebook and email extensively but, do not spend all my time on them. I do not think that I will want to use any new gadget but, if something replaces all these with one source and we are all forced to change, like cell telephones or digital photography did, I may be compelled to.

    1. We may all need to change pretty much as we have been doing.

  2. I don't have a smart phone for I have no cell service where I live. My regular land lines are cordless but I do have a corded landline for when the power goes out. I have a flip phone for emergencies though they are iffy also. If my car breaks down or is in an accident at the bottom of a hill, I would have to climb to the top to get a signal. Sometimes we have to rely on good Samaritans.

    1. What you describe about not being able to get a signal for your wireless device is a problem for many all over our country even in their homes. This makes having a land line all the more important for them. A cell phone as you have would be sufficient for me for emergencies along with my landline but sharing a new changed family plan resulted in my acquiring this smartphone I’m still using much as my former cell phone.

  3. Two thoughts come to mind. One is that in hurricane country, keeping a landline with a connected answering device can be pretty darned handy. If you happen to be holed up two hundred or more miles from home, waiting until it's safe to return, calling that home phone is nifty. If the answering machine picks up, you know that the electricity is back on.

    As for charging, I have two substantial power banks that I take with me even when I'm traveling for the weekend. Each is capable of charging my cell phone fully at least three times, and my iPad as well. If there's real car trouble (as there once was) and I can't use the cigarette lighter for charging, those do the trick very nicely. It's important not to let those things sit forever, so I occasionally use them to recharge a device, and then charge them back to full capacity again.

    Also: I recently learned that the worst thing you can do for a smart phone battery is fully charge it, or let it run completely down. Recharge at 20% and charge to 85% or 90%, and you'll help extend your battery life.

    1. Your hurricane experience demonstrates how continued access to a landline can be important. You have provided some really good points —the power banks and their use for charging the smartphone.

  4. I ditched my landline about 10 years ago. Haven't missed it. Outages here are brief though with CC winds are getting more frequent and stronger, so pause to reflect. Nah, not going to reinstall landline. I live in a building with 48 others so I am confident of being made aware if something serious happens to interrupt the flow of our lives.


    1. Where we live, as you describe, does need to be considered if we choose to eliminate having a landline which may not be as needed as for some others in less
      populated areas, or one where there is a problem getting a signal. Certainly eliminating a landline expense is welcomed.

  5. So much to think about here, Joared.

    In my immediate neighborhood, we are vulnerable to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. In the larger community at lower elevations, many have recently experienced power outages due to severe flooding of their homes, along with damage to their cars.

    It was for financial reasons that I gave up my landline, unable to afford both a landline and a cell phone and finding that, more and more, having a cell phone is a necessity. It is sobering to know now that in many instances it is assumed that most everyone has, at the very least, a cell phone and in some cases a smart phone. For example, during the early days of the pandemic, doctor's offices would say to "call from your cell phone when you arrive and we will let you know when you can come in the building."

    Speaking of power outages, I had to buy a back-up for the unit that recharges my hearing aids. When I chose to get rechargeable hearing aids rather than battery-operated ones, it never occurred to me that I wouldn't be able to re-charge my hearing aids if there were to be a power outage that lasted more than 24 hours. With the back-up, I have some leeway but with an extended power outage, I would have to do without my hearing aids!

    I agree that what are called advances in technology frequently give us less than we had before, along with the inconvenience of having to learn new technologies on a fairly regular basis. Not so easy for many people, young and old.

    I remember how incensed I was when I learned that the small company where my former husband (a computer programmer) worked would sell programs that they knew had multiple problems and then they would "fix" the problems as they inevitably came up for the customer, rather than taking the time to address those problems before selling the programs. The customer had to live with the frustration of programs that failed to do what the customer had pad for them to do.

    I have several friends and acquaintances my age (70s) who refuse to use cellphones and some who refuse to use "computers," although a smart phone is very much a computer. A few very refuse to use either, sticking with their landlines and paying bills by mail or in person.

    When I left my marriage, I swore that I would never have a computer in my home. My former husband insisted that someday "everyone" would have a computer. The joke was on me. The job I took to support myself after leaving the marriage in 1984 required me to learn to use computers and by 2005, I had bought my first home computer. Just around the time I started blogging, which has been a joy for all these years.

    1. Costs of keeping both a landline and a cell/smartphone can be a problem for many I can appreciate. I've sometimes wondered if I should be more frugal, too. Hopefully, they'll keep adding more wireless systems to the 911 number to make it as efficient as the landline one is which is what they're supposed to be doing.

      That's an important issue you've brought up -- emergency backup power during long term power outages if your limited-to-24 hours backup unit has been drained. Certainly having hearing compromised during such a time could possibly be challenging for you and likely many others, too. I suppose you can buy additional backup power units, there are others longer-lasting, or maybe there are solar or other power sources available, but I'm not knowledgeable about that to recommend anything. Expect you could check with your hearing aid health care consultant and/or your aids' manufacturer to see what they recommend if you decide to explore the matter further.

      Not all have rushed to purchase computers and the multitude of devices that keep emerging. I, too, have some friends who continue resisting using a computer. Cost can be a factor for some, perhaps.

  6. For the reasons you give, we still have a landline. It will keep working even during a lengthy power cut, and we don't have to keep it "on" to get a phone call. Jenny has a smart phone but I don't have any obvious need for one. Yes, I guess something will eventually replace smart phones, but who knows what that will be?

    1. I’m curious to know what the new “latest thing” will be.

  7. We gave up our landline decades ago. My brother still has his, and all he gets is junk calls. He lets it sit there, unanswered, like a piece in a museum.

    1. Probably he just wants it as an emergency system to call out on if needed.

  8. Happy holidays to you too.

  9. Junk calls only on our landline.
    Have a lovely happy holiday.

  10. I hung onto my landline for some years for just the reasons you describe, but finally let it go (got tired of robocalls). I charge my smartphone every night, and my smartwatch every morning (I can actually make calls on it if necessary, independently of the phone). For emergency calls I have Nest speakers all over the house, which can call my son; the watch which will place a call to my son automatically if I fall; and the smartphone. 911 here is still not going to pinpoint my location, but it's registered with several services. Lots of tech, but luckily for me my son is in IT and can keep me up on things. Hope your holidays are joyous.

    1. Sounds like your tech needs are covered with the aid of your son. My son, too, up to a point since he lives out of state. I think it's a pain having to keep so many things charged but guess that's the price we pay for the rest of the benefits they offer. Friends just told me that with their new smartphone when one of them fell backwards to the pavement onto their tush causing bruising all over the device didn't react, but another day when that person fell forward onto their face the smartphone did call the emergency number.

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