A few months back you might remember a column written by yours truly about me forgetting my cell phone at home when I went to town. You might recall my expressed feelings of helplessness, angstness and discombobulationness fearing I might miss a call from someone … anyone. It didn't really matter that I wasn't expecting anyone to call in the first place. It was just “what if someone calls and I miss it”?
The column was meant to be on the lighter side, humorous and maybe just a little thought-provoking about the fix we are letting ourselves in for with all the electronic gadgetry that we feel we “must have” in order to keep up in today's electronics laden world. And therein lies the Vicks Vapo Rub.
Let me explain.
You younger folks can't remember a day when there were just the three network TV channels and we received them via antenna. My Washington family lived 60 miles from the broadcast tower and reception was often, at best “fuzzy.” To aid reception we bought what was called “rabbit ears,” an antenna that sat on the TV and when reception was bad if you moved the ears a little bit left or right maybe the picture would clear up … or maybe not. But it was what we had, and we knew no other.
Service was free.
Back then, my grannie's phone number in Havre was 1112W. There were no area codes. If you wanted to make a long distance call you had to go through an operator You told the operator the state you wanted to call and then the number. Our number was GArfield 5-4532. And we used a rotary dial phone. Locally the phone bill was about 4 or 5 bucks a month. Long distance was extra.
I remember going to the library and marveling over the thousands upon thousands of books on the shelves and thinking I could even get smarter than my sister Vicki if I had all that knowledge stored in my head. But who could read all those books? When we took car trips Granny always had us take along a book or two. OK, but what if the book you brought wasn't any good or boring or you just lost interest? You were out of luck and had to play “count the license plates” for amusement.
You had to have a library card and the books were checked out free.
Today an Apple iPhone 5 could cost nearly 700 simoleans – which includes several “apps,” but the more popular apps will cost you extra.. Ultimately, your hand held portable telephone could cost upwards of $1,200, depending on how many apps you want.
Don't forget, the cost of “coverage” could cost between $30 and $60 dollars ... per month.
As for reading a book, well now you folks have hundreds of books literally at your fingertips if you have a Kindle or the ever popular Asus Google Nexus 7 tablet with 32gb quad-core Tegra 3 Android 3.1. (Uh, could you run that one by me again?) That particular “book” can be had for just $189.99. There again, you get a few standard books with the purchase of the thingie, but you have to purchase any additional books you might want to read. A virtual library right there in your fanny pack.
My point is that we are being brainwashed into thinking we need these gadgets for our very societal survival. We're hooked … just as surely as a druggie gets hooked. Slowly and incrementally.
Every time Dish Network, Direct TV, or other cable and satellite services raise their prices, we moan and complain but we pay it because we're hooked. Your BFF says she got this phone that does every thing but attract a boyfriend, only cost $300 last month but when you go to buy one just like it the price has risen 30%. But you're hooked. You have to have it. You shell out the cash.
Back in my day, “bundling” was something you did with your special friend when out on a winter hayride. Todays it's when you have one bill for your TV, your iPhone and your PC. My bundling was far more funner.
Could we survive if we eschew these “comforts of life?” You bet your sweet bippy we could. But will we? Nope. No matter how high corporate America jacks up the prices, they know we're hooked and will buy their goods and services at any cost. We gotta' have it!!!
I remember just six short years ago, Dish Network basic service (now there's a real definition of oxymoronism) was $8.99 per month. Basic service is now over 38 bucks and the recorder box and the local channels are extra.
One hundred and 20 channels! Many are religious channels and home shopping channels. The service providers load up their packages with those channels because they get them free and it makes their deal sound so much better. We fall for it because we're hooked.
Can we survive without? Surely we can. Will we? Nope. We're hooked.
That's it for now folks. Thanks for listening.
Virgil Vaupel is The Courier's Hinsdale correspondent.