The big push is on to get people to purchase their own telephones, instead of paying a kind of monthly rent for them as in the past. Along with the encouragement to buy comes a whole new range of options designed to tempt the comsumer. Not only will telephones of the near future come in all colors of the rainbow, and in all sizes, but in various shapes and historical or decorative styles. Their mechanical or electronic features will differ also, with some being merely a rough equivalent of what we now know and others shedding their cords, or being tuned to dial automatically or (for all I know) to provide the day's news or the night's fare of entertainment. I am not certain what legal or corporative developments are behind this new approach; but I don't like it, and I am not amused.
Not long since, the telephone was one of the few objects in our gadget-ridden civilization which could be counted on to remain the same in outward appearance, while it provided practically fool-proof services. Amid flux it was one constant element; amid breakdowns and the dissolution of material things it remained imperturbably efficient. No one really thought of getting a new telephone - the old one worked so well. Besides, it seemed to come free from the telephone company, an act of grace by some anonymous benefactor - and who was going to look this gift horse in the mouth, or in the mouthpiece? When the classic Ford came in all colors, provided they were black, the telephone vied with it in being authoritative and unquestioned.
There had been changes in the telephone over the years, of course, and those with long memories can recall the subtle alterations which came about mysteriously and unannounced. Somewhere along the evolutionary line this household necessity turned from being a thing of two pieces, with the earphone being lifted off a hook, to the sleek one-piece version of today. At some point its two ends have come to look so alike that one can never be sure one is not talking into the place where one should be listening, or vice-versa. In my youth there was no danger of such confusions.