A Wonder of Modern Technology

A Wonder of Modern Technology November 18, 2021


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Not, thankfully, a recent photograph.   (Wikimedia Commons public domain image)




Over the next few days, for reasons that will become evident, I will probably be posting shorter blog entries here.  And I may even miss a day from time to time.  I’ll try not to do that, but my schedule will be hectic and my access to the internet will be sporadic, limited, and, sometimes, just downright poor.


Poor internet can be incredibly frustrating.  At least, to me it is.  And yet I’m old enough to remember an era when we didn’t even have the internet.  We survived on snail mail.  Somehow And when my wife and I lived in places like Egypt, snail mail was both really, really slow and quite unreliable.  Letters between Egypt and North America could easily take a month to transit the Atlantic and, often, they simply disappeared.


My wife and I spent nearly four years in Egypt at the very beginning of our marriage, going home in the summers (with one Fulbright-supported exception) in order for me to work in the family construction business and make some money.  During that time in Egypt, we had only two telephone conversations with people in the United States.  One was with my brother, trying to find out whether my father had survived the heart attack that we had learned about the previous day via telegram.  The other two were on the same day, to our respective parents, letting them know that they had a new grandson.  We didn’t own a phone ourselves; we had to go to the post office to place our calls, and the process took several hours.


There was no real point in having a telephone; even calls across the city of Cairo were almost impossible.  And, by the way, almost nobody had ever seen an Egyptian telephone book.  Since almost every male bears the name of Muhammad (e.g., the recent Egyptian presidents Muhammad Anwar al-Sadat and Muhammad Hosni Mubarak and Muhammad Morsi) and since the telephone book was alphabetized according to first name, phone books were essentially useless.  So anybody with a phone compiled his or her own personal phone book.  But, anyhow, it was often faster to hire a cheap courier to drive or bicycle a message across Cairo than to try to achieve a successful phone call.


So it’s amazing to me that, today, we can reach people in Cairo almost instantly via not only cell phone but the internet.  Simply astonishing.  The Egyptians never had to fix their old antiquated and overwhelmed telephone system; it simply became irrelevant, and they moved on.


Posted from Salt Lake City, Utah



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