Honolulu Lite


Monday, May 14, 2001

We live our lives
from wire to wire

Considering my family of three has eight telephones in the house, it was only a matter of time before we began calling each other -- in the house.

I was in the kitchen when one of the three cellular phones rang. I had the usual fun of trying to figure out which phone was ringing, since they all sit next together in their little chargers. So I fumbled around with the damn things and finally got the right one on the third try, naturally. It was my daughter, calling from downstairs, asking if I'd bring her a glass of ice water.

I figure at least a hundred miles of telephone line, several cellular relay towers and three satellites were involved in that brief conversation spanning all of about 23 feet. Since my daughter was sick and had been bedridden for the past few days, I didn't share that bit of reflection on technological overkill with her. It was my fault I hadn't set up a more low-tech way for us to keep in touch in the not-so-vast reaches of a single building, say by giving her a little brass bell, a whistle or a starter's pistol.

Eight telephones? How did we ever end up with eight telephones? During the Eisenhower Administration, Ike ran the entire country with only three telephones. And it's worse than that. We've also got five televisions and three computers in the house and can gain access to the Internet though a high-speed DSL line, as well as over a standard 56K phone line using three different Web servers.

I could argue that I'm in the media business and so I have to stay in touch with the outside world. But someone else could argue that there's not that much outside world to stay in touch with.

During the Cold War I could have run a good-sized intelligence network with the hardware we have in our house right now. I'm pretty sure that one house having this much electronic equipment is a crime against the state in China. Heck, in Russia it used to be a crime to have a copier and a fax machine. I've got the equivalent of four fax machines on the computers and a high resolution scanner that could crank out hundred dollar bills at the hands of someone less scrupulous, or at least, more adventurous than me.

We just switched television service providers and now get 80 channels of digital television. My daughter made me feel like I was forcing her to live in ice-age conditions because I wouldn't spring for the whole 100-plus channel package. I said, "Honey, the human eye was not designed to deal with so many channels. Eighty's way too much already. They've done tests on rats, forced them to watch 100 channels of rat television and guess what happened? Their little red eyes EXPLODED! Really. I saw it on the Science Channel."

She didn't believe me, just like she doesn't believe that when we were kids there were only three channels on television and they weren't even in color. Frankly, I find it hard to believe myself. How did we manage? What did we do to amuse ourselves?

I was going to call my wife to ask her but she refuses to carry a phone to the shower.

Alo-Ha! Friday compiles odd bits of news from Hawaii
and the world to get your weekend off to an entertaining start.
Charles Memminger also writes Honolulu Lite Mondays,
Wednesdays and Sundays. Send ideas to him at the
Honolulu Star-Bulletin, 500 Ala Moana Blvd., Suite 7-210,
Honolulu 96813, phone 235-6490 or e-mail

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