This started out as part of AT&T but got rather out of hand.

I had fun writing it.

It's even kind of true.

The Story

In Ancient Times

In Ancient Times, when tubes were vacuum and transistors discrete (discreet?), The Phone Company Said:

Though Shall Have No Gadgets, Gizmos, or other Devices attached to Our Wires that We don't Approve of, Own, or Otherwise Charge you a Monthly Rate For!

(False) Dawn Of A New Age

Thus was created the old acousticly coupled modem. That funny thing you see in old high tech movies from the 1960s and 1970s that had two black rubber cups that you could fit a telephone handset into. And there were Wires that connected to a strange device called a Teletype (for you young kids, think of a printer with an attached keyboard) or a Terminal (kids, think old fashioned TV set with a keyboard in front.) Appalled yet? This was even before the World Wide Web. We're talking ANCIENT history.

Anyway, since there wasn't a wired connection between this rubber cup modem and the telephone system, The Phone Company had to just lump it as their noxious behavior was already getting them in trouble.

Dark Times Indeed

The Telephone Company was Happy that you would make a phone call with this thing. They could Measure that Call and Bill for that Call, and if you didn't Pay money for that Call, they could do nasty legal things to you (which gave their lawyers something to do besides wage patent warfare on young technology companies, or wage corporate warfare on GTE.)

However, the Telephone Company wasn't happy about the length of the calls. People using these modem things tended to have long, long calls that tied up the telephone switches, requiring them to build more capacity. The Phone Company thought that people should talk to people, not machines with machines - at least by dialing. The Phone Company was very happy to sell permanent connections between machines. They liked pairs of machines that talked together because they could Bill for that without having to Measure it - a savings in money for them (if not their customers.)


The Phone Company had some International Friends too, the PTTs (Postal, Telephone, and Telegraph companies.) These International Friends thought that AT&T was the Wild Child. It wasn't owned and run by the Government. These Friends thought that the Post Office was the Natural Habitat of the Telegraph, and this New Fangled Thing - the Telephone. Still, even if AT&T was a Wild Child, it was Still a Member of the Family (not the "C Street House", but similar.)

A New Hope

However, outside of the Family was a Gang of Unruly Kids. They thought it'd be pretty neat if they could get machines to talk to each other. In one way, they went back to the basics - they thought machines could talk together by exchanging little messages - kind of like post cards - back and forth. Any conversation would be made up of a bunch of little messages. Kind of like a Telegraph, which the Family kind of understood (especially if they could Measure and Bill for it!) However, these Unruly Kids didn't think any one message was important enough to try really hard for. None of these messages alone would be particularly special - sealed with a kiss or anything like that. These were just Machines. Machines were good at doing things over and over again, so the Machines could just send the messages over and over again until they got through.

This scared the Family. They didn't understand how this could work well. Worse, they feared that The People who Owned the Machines that Kept Trying Over and Over again would get upset for and the Measuring and Billing that would be done for messages that got resent. (Remember, the Family - or at least AT&T - had a problem with the Government for Noxious Behavior.)

Benign Neglect

So, the Family turned away from the Unruly Kids. They tried to Ignore Them. Besides, a Terrible Thing Happened. AT&T got just a bit too noxious, and instead of the Government giving them a Slap and a Wink like before, or Embracing them into the Post Office (as the Rest of The Family was), disaster happened. In a way, it was Very Sad. But in another way, it was what the whole Family secretly wished they could do. Instead of One Monopoly controlling The World, there were Seven (the RBOCs) and a few bit players too. And AT&T was Still There - smaller and shaken, but free of a lot of pesky rules and regulations. Will all that, nobody paid any attention to the pesky Unruly Kids.

As any parent knows, Unruly Kids, when left Unattended, get into all kinds of mischief. They Invented More Things. Like E-Mail. And YouTube.

Of Course, there were some Bad Kids out there too. They wore their pants low and had tattoos. They Invented Spam and Adult Themed Web Sites. Of course, that paid for a lot of the Unruly Kids inventions, but No One wants to admit that.

The Empire Strikes Back

But the Unruly Kids got old and Needed Jobs. And so, they were hired by The Family. And Now AT&T offers internet service. Even if they Don't Believe In It, down in their Measuring and Billing Hearts.

Some Terms

Classic Telephone service provided over a twisted pair of wires. The handset (telephone receiver) is dumb. Really dumb. All it can do is a very simple form of signaling to the telephone "switch". All of the power it needs to operate also comes over that same pair of wires.

Incredibly reliable.

Incredibly simple.

Not fancy at all.

Do you believe that back in the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, The Telephone Company thought that people wanted to see each other when they were talking? Enough to pay the Phone Company Lots Of Money to build a Great Big New System to do Just that (and only that)?

Really. The Phone Company thought that.

It made for neat TV advertisements.

But people were happy enough just talking.

Seen one Grandma, you've seen them all.

The Phone Company should have used pretty girls, but no one had thought of 900 service numbers.

This is what happens when you marry a computer, the internet, a telephone handset, and a lot of engineers trying to make the greatest whiz-bang thing ever.

Think Windows Blue Screen Of Death (BSOD). On Your Telephone. When You are Trying do Call 911 because of a Heart Attack. And Because It's The Internet (IP is Internet Protocol), Everybody Thinks You are A Dog. In Spinks Corners.

The Phone Company Doesn't Like This One At All. VOIP pretty much cuts The Phone Company out of the picture, except maybe sometimes when you're first getting acquainted. The Phone Company isn't ready to retire yet as just a matchmaker. The Still want to Measure and Bill.

Video Chatting

Actually, this Irritates The Phone Company no end because they can't Measure It and Bill for It and it really takes the wind out of their Picture Phone Idea.