Hundred years is not a small span of time for a thing to develop completely, to eradicate or minimize its negative effects and to flourish its positive effects to wider dimensions. So to make an impartial study of an object’s merits and demerits when it celebrates its glorious contemporary is a reasonable task. So on the occasion of the celebration of centenary of telephone John Brookes asks.
What has the telephone done to us, in the hundred years of existence?
Many of its effects are obvious. The obvious merits of telephone are many. It has saved life by sending rapid information about illness, injury, famine, etc. from remote places. It has joined the world as an elevator join a multistory residence or office building. It has greatly accelerated the rate of scientific and technological change and growth in industry by sending information easily over places.
And it has developed its demerits also. It has cropped the ancient art of letter writing. It’ has accelerated the process of breaking up of the multigenerational household by enabling a person who has normal social impulses to live alone. And the worst is that it has made the wagering of war chillingly more efficient than formerly. It may prevent wars that may arise out of international misunderstanding.
But actually it has caused wars by magnifying and extending irrational personal conflicts based on voice contact. Telephone has extended the scope of human conflicts since it impartially disseminates the useful knowledge of scientists and the babble of bores, the affection of the affectionate and the malice of the malicious.
But we are yet far from our answer. The obvious effects we have discussed are inadequate and mechanistic. It has some crucial and deeper effects. The one is that it involves personal risk. It involves risk as it exposes an individual. Any one from any place can contact an individual for any purpose. It also keeps on “hung upon”- every ring in cities fear, hope, anxiety, relief in the subscriber’s mind according to the news one expects. And at times of metal agony every ring accelerates the heart-beat. Telephone has become our never-end to society.
Telephone is a paradox in itself. It is a cute, tiny object. It works on low voltage. In this age of hugeness telephone, does a more in a little shape. It recreates voice faithfully. People talking with known across the sea feel each other’s presence. It is foolish to ask about the effect of telephone as it is foolish to ask about the effect of hand or leg. The effect of telephone is best expressed by the Canadian Philosopher Marshali Mcluhan. He said that telephone is creating a kind of extra-sensory perception.”