Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The Precipice of Innovation

The next wave of technology.

This week I am doing a REALLY important video conference with people in the U.S. I'll be using Skype, which is the way I video chat with my family each week.

Here's the thing though: I've been nervous about this video conference because the Internet in Palau has the same speed and capabilities they used during the Dark Ages.

I'm seriously so glad I wasn't born in the Dark Ages. Can you imagine going your whole life hardly being able to access Facebook to see pictures of your friends burning witches, or whatever people did during the Dark Ages?

What this means for Skype is that the quality of the video and audio and the likelihood that it won't work at all or will drop mid-conversation is totally unpredictable. Sometimes when I Skype with my parents, it's fine. But more often we spend half an hour screaming into our computers "CAN YOU HEAR ME?" while frozen images of one another's distorted faces mar the other's screen.

So, in planning this video conference, I offered that if there is any problem with Skype, we could switch to the phone, which is almost always reliable. And fortunately they were amenable to that.

Here's my phone situation: I have a very crappy 2003 Nokia cell phone (the phone of Palau), which doesn't have great sound quality and which charges roughly $200,000 a minute to make or receive any calls whatsoever.

I also have my office phone, but I don't dare to try to do this Skype meeting from my office because the Internet at the courthouse is somehow EVEN WORSE than the Internet in my apartment, which means we would most definitely have to just go straight to the phone. Plus, you can't call my office phone directly so calls go to a secretary somewhere and this meeting will be in the middle of the night, because Palau is 943 hours ahead of the U.S., when mysterious secretary will not be around.

So yesterday I did some investigation and I found out that I actually have a land line in my apartment that I have never used. So off I ran (literally) after work to Palau's "department store" to choose from the three phone options available. Then I ran (literally) the three miles home, giant box in hand.

Guys. I felt like the Weasley dad from Harry Potter trying to get a "muggle" device to work. I have not had a land line in my home since, like, 2003. Is that right?! Yeah, I think it is. 2003! And the idea that I could plug this simple contraption into a hole in the wall and make phone calls from my house was baffling to me.

Daniel was laying on the couch reading his book while I sat on the floor trying to figure this thing out.

Daniel: So, how does it work?

Eli: I'm not sure. It only has this one cord thing but I don't see a cord to plug it into an outlet?

Daniel: What do you mean?

Eli: Like, for power.

Daniel: Oh. Does it use batteries?

Eli: Um . . . no, there's not a place for batteries on the phone.

Daniel: Weird.

Eli: Oh wait! I think it's working! Will you call this number? xxx-xxxx.

Daniel called it and the phone began ringing and I swear to you we actually started jumping up and down because it was so exciting. And then I said, "isn't technology amazing!?"

And right then I realized that at some point things became very backwards. Because now the thought that I can plug something into the wall IN MY APARTMENT and make local phone calls and recieve long distance calls for free seems more amazing than being able to make phone calls from anywhere to anywhere on my 2003 Nokia.

And for the next thirty minutes we texted our friends, telling them to call our land line so we could try it out. BECAUSE IT WAS SO EXCITING!

Maybe one day we'll even get a CORDLESS phone! Can you imagine!? A CORDLESS PHONE! Then we would be able to walk all over the house talking to all of our friends!

I was like a teenage girl in 1995 who just got a phone in her room as I blabbed on and on to anyone who would listen. And then I heard the neighbor, with whom we apparently share the line, pick up her phone and start making a call.

Gosh I love living in 1942.

~It Just Gets Stranger


  1. Oh, this made me laugh! I remember when I was a little girl, I was jealous because my grandparents had a "party-line" and we did not! I thought, "When I get my own phone, I'm going to have a party-line!" I just couldn't believe how deprived we were.
    Maybe next, you guys can get a VCR! :-)

  2. Oh my gosh! This is great!

    I used to want the "Sabrina the teenage Witch" phone that would tell you that you were getting a call before your phone rang... because that seemed soooo impressive to me! A psychic phone! HA!

    Maybe y'all should get caller ID next!

    1. I totally had that phone! My neighbor collected all sorts of old phones and that was one of them! I thought it was the coolest thing because it would switch up what it said before it rang like, "looks like someone is popular..." and things like that. I wish I knew what I did with it.

  3. Oh hey, your hair looks great!

  4. hahaha, I really love this story. Also, references to Harry Potter always make me very happy. Muggle technology is so cool.

  5. Similar situation, slightly diferent. My skype's forever stuck because the internet speed is so slow! No twitter or facebook too. So my aunt in England calls a particular number to talk to my mum. Only she can call the number! If my mum needs to speaks to her urgently, I call from my 2007 mobile phone, rapidly spill 'mum-wants-you-to-call-her' and hang up as quick as possible! Imagine the bills otherwise! She then calls the particular number and the 2003 mobile phone assigned for that package rings!
    She wants us to get a land-line, so that we can get better internet, and so that she can ditch the expensive, cheap way of keeping in touch. Very complicated methods of communicating.
    By the way Eli, the do you have to pay a fixed amount for the land-line? If I were you, I'd double check the rates and all that, especially for IDD!
    Hope the video-chat goes fine!

  6. OH! You share lines! you have to watch the movie Pillow Talk now!

    1. definitely the finest movie about shared phone lines ever to be produced. A hearty second endorsement here.

  7. Why did you x out the actual number? Don't you want a hundred million strangers to have direct access to you 24/7? Don't you love us?

  8. This is awesome. I must move to a foreign country very soon.

  9. This, aside from the party line thing, illustrates why I love land lines so much and will forever* resist the idea that cell phones should be the primary phone option. I cannot stand talking on my cell phone nor to anyone else who is on their cell phone. I do it because I have to sometimes. But somehow we got sold this idea that it's more important to "be able" to "make" and/or "take" calls regardless of "where" we are than to be able to actually "hear" and "communicate." Land lines are the way to go! And yeah, cordless is great too because I talk on the phone while sitting on my patio! Think of it! Also, Eli, I love you. Hope that's not too forward. And you are looking great lately. All that running and healthy deviled-egg eating must be working for you.

    *Unless, of course, cell technology somehow catches up with my standards. I'm not an unreasonable Luddite.

  10. As A foreign student living in the USA I totally relate with your Skype problems!!! We do spend three quarters of the time yelling at the screen "CAN YOU HEAR ME? YES I CAN HEAR YOU BUT CAN YOU HEAR ME?" or "I CANT SEE YOU, CAN YOU SEE ME?" or "DO YOU WANNA TRY FACEBOOK?" its so frustrating. I usually watch TV while skyping with my family so when the call crashes or something I still have something to do. Love reading your blogs at work because it takes to another place and when I giggle my coworkers look at me wondering whats up with me.

  11. We have a landline at my house, but I have NO IDEA what the phone number is. It's basically the dedicated line for telemarketers.

  12. I bumped into your blog a week ago, I think. I don't usually read blogs, not really, but yours I keep going back to. And giggle away I go. I feel your pain, Skype-wise. Me and my boyfriend have decided to forget about Skype's existence, and moved on to Google Talk/ Hangouts. Less yelling involved.