How far we’ve come

Found this bit of recollection on the Times of India (excerpt below):

And if you did have a phone, it wasn’t necessarily a blessing. I spent my high school years in Calcutta, and i remember that if you picked up your phone, you had no guarantee you would get a dial tone; if you got a dial tone and dialed a number, you had no guarantee you would reach the number you had dialed. Sometimes you were connected to someone else’s ongoing conversation, and they had no idea you were able to hear them; there was even a technical term for it, the ‘cross-connection’ (appropriately, since these were connections that made us very cross). If you wanted to call another city, say Delhi, you had to book a ‘trunk call’ in the morning and then sit by the telephone all day waiting for it to come through; or you could pay eight times the going rate for a ‘lightning call’ which only took half an hour instead of the usual three or four or more to be connected. As late as 1984, when a member of Parliament rose to protest this woeful, appalling performance by a public sector monopoly, the then communications minister replied in a lordly manner that in a developing country, telephones were a luxury, not a right; that the government had no obligation to provide better service; and that if the honorable member was not satisfied with his telephone, he was welcome to return it, since there was an eight-year waiting list for this supposedly inadequate instrument!

Indeed, it’s probably easy to take for granted these infrastructure that have improved communication so drastically – even as we’re now looking at the imminent decline of the phone line as mobile communication and VOIP now makes the fixed-line phone looks somewhat inadequate. Still, some great perspectives!

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