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Commentary Detail

The Real Information Age
Commentary by: Elaine Viets
Aired May 20, 2009

I have trouble keeping up with the new technology. Friends showed me how to text and Twitter. A fan made a Facebook page for me, then had to tell me how to get to it.

I'm not proud of my ignorance. It's just the way I work - or rather, don't work.

I used to feel bad. Now I realize I have another purpose. I can show people the beauty of the obsolete technology.

Before the Internet, one of the fastest ways to spread information was by a party line.

Young people can't believe that two, three or more families used to share one phone line. Each home on a party line had its own distinctive ring.

You only answered your phone when you heard your ring. At least, that's what we were supposed to do. Our mothers used to warn, "Be careful what you say on the phone. You never know who's listening."

But people were listening. Our shared line included two women skilled at picking up the phone to listen in. The only thing that gave away Mrs. Archer was her heavy breathing when she heard good gossip.

Party liners were the first to know who was having a baby and who had money trouble long before that news became general gossip. Private lines put an end to that speedy information sharing.

Now, thanks to texting and email, we are finally able to equal the real information age.

(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Elaine Viets

Elaine Viets


Elaine Viets is a freelance writer.

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