Looking Back

From cords to cordless

I was watching a talk show recently where the star of “Young Sheldon,” 10-year-old Iain Armitage, was a guest.

He was asked what he thought about the various items on the set, many of which dated back to the years before he was born. The show takes place in 1989 and Sheldon was born in 2008.

You wouldn’t think that much has changed in those nineteen years, but Iain was quick to tell the host that he didn’t like phone cords!

During my years of working for New England Telephone in the 1970s, people used to order the longest mounting cord offered so their desk style phone could be pulled around to various places in the house. I remember taking my parents’ phone into the front hallway so I could carry on a private conversation with my teenage friends. As you know, discussing boyfriends is a matter of secrecy to a teenager.

This technique only worked well in the summer months, because the phone cord wouldn’t allow the hallway door to close completely. On a chilly winter day, not only would I be cold in the hallway, but the cold air would get into the house. My parents had a problem with that!

You could also get long receiver cords. Those were popular for wall phones. However, they got twisted and stretched out rather quickly and were far from attractive after a while.

I was curious to see when cordless phones were invented. The first cordless phone that I could find reference to was from the 1960s. However, it is not the one that most of us are familiar with. The 60s cordless phone was similar to what military personnel used during World War II.

By the 90s digital signals allowed cordless phones to be more secure when it came to the ability to eavesdrop. Cordless phones need electricity to power the base. The handset is powered by a battery which is charged when the handset is in the base. Unlike today’s cell phones, cordless phones have a limited range when it comes to making and receiving calls.

I remember when we got our first cordless phone, over 20 years ago. It gave me the freedom to take the phone outside and do some gardening while I was waiting for an important call. Gone were the days of having to stay in the house for hours so I wouldn’t miss it. While it seemed wonderful back then to roam around our yard, that restriction wouldn’t work for today’s population. We want to go wherever we choose and still be in constant contact with people. Cell phones let us do that.

As you can see, we  have come a long way from the phone cords that “Young Sheldon” doesn’t like. I wonder what the next invention will be that will replace cell phones? I guess I had better stick around another 20 years to find out. That seems to be about how long it takes for something newly invented to become “the norm.”

So many devices that are used both in our houses and yards are now cordless. There is no need to get out the vacuum cleaner when the cleanup area is small. The DustBuster is perfect for that. I think it was invented for my husband, Peter. He loves it! I always know when he is cleaning up some crumbs since that device tends to be rather noisy as it sucks up the debris. I tend to prefer a quiet cleanup just like in the old days, so I grab a broom and dust pan!

I remember during our early married years in the 70s, there were cords all over the house and yard as Peter worked on various projects. I guess most of us are a bit like Sheldon when it comes to having a dislike for cords.

I don’t miss the extension cord that used to run across about 100 feet of our yard when my husband wanted to saw off some small branches. Now he can accomplish that task with a battery operated reciprocating saw.

When it comes to doing routine outdoor tasks, everything we use is now cordless: our weed whacker, edger and blower. And let’s not forget about the cordless drill, complete with a light … another of my husband’s favorite tools.

Popular Science magazine had some interesting data about how contractors have reduced the time needed for various jobs thanks to cordless power tools.

They are effective because of the battery voltage that is now in tools such as drills. Back in the 60s they were 4.8 volts and by 2000 they were 18 volts.

The batteries can also be recharged in a shorter amount of time as the years have gone by.

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