Category Archives: Nonesense

“Give Me Your Digits” – the Evolution of the Telephone

Rotary iPhone Dock

I remember a day, not so long ago, when everyone had ONE phone number. It was sometime in between the movie Wall Street and the TV show “Saved by the Bell”. In our household, we just finished a major debate about the validity and cost-effectiveness of keeping our home phone. This isn’t a new argument as many of our friends are “Cell-Only” friends. Times sure have changed….

Our family has the benefit of having access to a great resource when it comes to the history of telephones; Her name is Aunt Gloria. Aunt Gloria worked for “Ma Bell” for 50 years (and 1 day she likes to throw in). She started working in the 1950’s and can vividly recall what switch boards were like and if you wanted to place a call from Austin to El Paso you had to route through Chicago. The scary thing is that wasn’t all that long ago, but light years in terms of technology evolution. TV’s and Radio’s from that era have certainly come a long way as well, but they still have a place of relevance in our society (although declining).

Home telephones are on the verge of obsolescence. Without a doubt cell phones have had a large affect on this, but taking a look at history you’ll find that telephones, and the numbers themselves, have been evolving too.

Up until the mid-1960’s, telephone numbers all started with 3 letters followed by 4 numbers (the “LLL-NNNN” format) thought to help us with memorization. When you’d call the switch board operator, or “hello girl”,  you’d give them a word then the number so they know where you were placing your call (i.e. “TREnton – 3403”) The Russians were the first on record to actual go to the all-numeral approach in 1968 which has now evolved into our current automatic dialing format. The letters required to call certain places remain on our phones and lots of advertisers still take advantage of that via mnemonics that help us remember their business. (call 1-888-BOLOGNA)

LBJ Phone

Can you hear me now?

While this history lesson is useful and entertaining (Aunt Gloria tells a great story about how she hung up on then President LBJ), it doesn’t help us with our current domestic dilemma. Do we keep our home number or get rid of it? After a couple days of contemplation, a brief trip to the store made our decision for us – we decided to keep it.
While the ability to locate the house for a random 911 emergency was a very important factor, it wasn’t until we went up to the check-out line of a local Randalls grocery that we realized our home phone number is a part of us. We use it at the gas station. We use it to get discounts on toys at Toys R Us. We even use it to work-out. It’s amazing how quickly the phone number has become our defacto replacement for identification. One of our friends actually uses our phone number when going to the store. This change has been happening over the last several years and while it’s true we could switch all those memberships to our cell phone, who wants to go through all that mess? So instead of paying for home phone service, we now view it more like we are paying for “multiple membership identity” service. Think this is crazy? Recollect how often you give out your home phone number to people. Now think of how often you use it to verify membership for some service or signing up for something. Which do you use if for more often? Last year I’d estimate we gave our phone number to 2-3 people and used it over 30 times to sign-up for something, and even that might be a low number. So then next time you go to Home Depot or 7-Eleven, see what the googly-eyed clerk behind the counter reacts when you tell him your number is “Trenton-3403”.


Resources: A short history of the telephone & Aunt Gloria

What Were Your Parents Thinking?

Being in education, I’ve come across several names that are, well, just plain crazy.   Having grown up with a last name like Hooker, I heard all sorts of jokes as you might imagine.  My sister, Anita, had an even worse time of things (go ahead, say it out loud and you’ll figure out why).  One of the first questions I always get is “what were your parents thinking?”

Since my parents never could come up with a believable answer to that question, it inspired me to look for other names out there that might prompt the same question.  What follows is a list of some of the names that either I, other educators, facebook friends, or twitter followers have come across in their lives.  I realize this has nothing to do with technology aside from the fact that social media is great for even the minutia (credit Dean Shareski for that one)

To keep this in some sort of orderly fashion, I’ll list these in categories:

Food Related Category: 

I’m not sure why parents like to name their kid after food items.   Maybe it’s America’s fascination with eating. Perhaps it’s what was on the menu the night of inception.  Who knows, but here goes:

Candy Cane

Pepper Mint (I think these two were related)

Cinnamon Danish – A middle school student from Sweetwater

Brocolli (I kid you not, can’t remember who told me this, but at least it’s a break from

Her middle name could be "with cheese"

the sweet names)

OrangeJello (or-ange-ello) and LemonJello (Le-mange-ello) – Again, relatives.

Mister Alfredo (Actual spelling – Not quite a food, but close)

Razi Berry (pronounced like raspberry)

Alternate Spellings and Pronunciations:

I’m not talking about adding a “y” in Robyn or anything either.  I’m talking blatant disregard for the English dictionary.

Butiful Mellody (supposed to be “Beautiful Melody”)

La-A (pronounced La-dash-ah)

Neveah (Heaven spelled backwards)

Nirmal (wonder how normal this kid will turn out)

Espn (Pronounced Es-Pin)

Social Media at work

ABC (Pronounced uh-bee-cee)

ABCDE (Pronounced Ab-sud-ee)

Pajama (Pronounced paj-ee-may)

CacheMonet (Pronounced like “Cash Money”)

Name, Profession or Both?

Bus Drivers – Mrs. Sippi (probably not a good name for a bus driver) and Mr. Safety (much better name for a bus driver)

OB/GYN – Dr. Cassinova and Dr. Hurt – Which one would you go to as a woman?

Kindergarten teacher – Mrs. Gizzlebox – Just sounds like a teacher’s name.

And of course, Dick Chopp – A famous local urologist who’s motto is “There’s more vasectomies to be done”. Seriously.  Here’s his site:

Family trends:

A family of three named: Lamblight, Moonbeam and Starshine

Another family of three: Sir Galliant, Sir Courage, Sir Valiant

Twins: Dorothy and Dorothea

Ima and Eura Hogg – Former Governor of Texas Jim Hogg’s daughters

April May – Her last name was June ‘

Three girls – Today, Tomorrow, and Yesterday

The Liss Family – Ruth and Dick

Literal Names?

Justin Case

Ferrel Hogg (no relation to Jim from above)

Howard E Butts (Founder of the famous H.E.B. grocery store – probably a better name than Butts Market)*

Pearl Harbor

John The Baptist (that’s his first name)

Your Highness

Orion Starr

Borderline Inappropriate Category:

Already mentioned my sister Anita Hooker – Especially fun when a principal calls her down to the office, comes out like  “I need a hooker to the office”

Richard Blower

Motivational Educator Harry Wong

Richard Head

Harry Wong

Harry Dick (Senator)

Marcus Pucci

Phil McKrackin

Phillip Ajarapoo (a teacher in Round Rock)

Shitthead (pronounced shi-thead)

While all these give me more inspiration than every to name my next child “@” or “Google”, I think with a name like Hooker he/she will have a hard enough time.  Finally, I bring you one more late addition:

Batman Bin Suparman

This one actually comes with a picture of a driver’s license:

Thanks to contributers Chris Parker, Jolynn Rettig, @Kristy_Vincent, AJ Muller, Mary Ries, Shawn Clark, Sean Forkner, Joan Hughes, @computerExplore aka Lisa Johnson, Jim Ford, Sheri Ford, Shawn Clark, Donyle Clark, Karen French, Tracy Lord, Sue St. Germain, Jane Mullen, Catherine Searcy-Edmund and of course, my sister, Anita.

*Thanks to Molly May for pointing out that Harry E. Butts of HEB fame, is actually Howard E. Butts