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Bill Kalmar

Quality Insider

Hello? Is That You, Flossie?

Kindle's and iPads and video phones, oh my!

Published: Monday, February 15, 2010 - 06:00

In March 1876, Alexander Graham Bell uttered these now famous words, “Mr. Watson, come here—I want to see you.” That day marked the beginning of an extraordinary time in communication—the advent of the telephone. Since then there have been thousands of changes in our communication systems, many of which I outlined in a previous column in Quality Digest Daily entitled “Whatever Happened To Pink Slips? ” In that column I traced some communication systems starting with the rudimentary clanking of rocks by cave men to our modern technology with cell phones. More recently I purchased a TomTom GPS system for our car. Obviously there is no limit on where technology will take us.

During the last couple of months my wife and I learned about Kindle, which is a device that displays books on a hand-held screen. No longer does one have to tote around large books—most any book you want to read can be downloaded on the Kindle, which resembles a laptop with about a 10-inch screen. By using Amazon.com, one can download more than 400,000 book titles.

Then just this past week Apple announced something called iPad, which will be available in stores sometime in April. It’s a multitouch tablet computer and evidently will be another success for this forward-looking company. Just by way of background, Apple has 284 stores—since 2001 more than 250 million iPods have been sold—and in the last quarter of 2009 more than 50 million people visited the Apple stores. While walking past the Apple store in the mall today, I noticed scores of people lined up to learn about the iPad and of course to buy more iPods. A true success story.

That brings me back to my opening comments about Bell’s invention—the telephone. I still remember making phone calls on my grandmother’s hand-crank telephone in Mulberry, Kansas. A few turns of the handle and you were immediately connected with Flossie, the town’s operator. Flossie would then hook you up with my grandfather at his feed store or any of the other folks in town.

A recent trip to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, reacquainted me with my grandmother’s hand-crank telephone. Along with that relic were 53 models of telephones including rotary, touch-tone, pay phones, business phones, car phones, and cell phones.

Have you noticed that there are fewer and fewer pay phones in existence? I guess it’s presumed that most everyone now has a cell phone. I know that several of our grandchildren have cell phones. Every now and then we receive a text message from one of them. Why they just can’t call is a mystery to me. I’m not a text message aficionado.

Our communication technology is changing so fast that I could write a column every month about new phone introductions. Case in point is a product that my friend, Ron Bauer, just brought to my attention. He is a representative for a telecommunication company that has introduced a video phone which lets you view the person you are talking to on a view screen that is part of the phone. Really neat! The phone has been featured on Donald Trump’s “Celebrity Apprentice Show.” If you want to be ahead of the communication curve you can contact Ron for more information at rjbauer9499@acnrep.com.

I suspect if Graham Bell had one of Ron’s phones, he wouldn’t have to ask Watson to come in the room to see him—Watson would be on the screen. And for me, it would give me a chance to see the real Flossie in Mulberry, Kansas.

Now I have to answer a text message from my grandson, Joel. How do you respond to “What’s up?” when you are retired? So much going on here that text messaging him would wear out my fingers. I wonder if he knows how to answer a real phone call.


About The Author

Bill Kalmar’s picture

Bill Kalmar

William J. Kalmar has extensive business experience, including service with a Fortune 500 bank and the Michigan Quality Council, of which he served as director from 1993 through 2003. He served on the Board of Overseers of the Baldrige Performance Excellence Program and has been a Baldrige examiner. He was also named quality professional of the year by the ASQ Detroit chapter. Now semiretired, Kalmar does freelance writing for several publications. He is a member of the USA Today Vacation Panel, a mystery shopper for several companies, and a frequent presenter and lecturer.