Landline to Mobile Telephony : Technology Has Changed Lives

In India of my childhood, like almost everything we take for granted today, phones used to be rare and sign of status. The black device used to fall sick at the slightest pretext. State of public phones were even worse. They almost never worked. Besides many did not know how to use a phone. Some used to scream at receiver while putting mouth piece in the ear. No wonder many could not communicate. Calling long distance used to be a challenge. Most of the time number would not connect. When lines got connected, one had to really scream. “Helllooo! Helloo! Howww are you all? Fineee?” In a way it felt like by screaming a customer is getting value for his money. 

First time I went out of India, I wanted to call back home. I dialled telephone exchange and wanted to book a call. May be because of my accent or because of absurdity of my request, operator did not say anything and put down the phone. After some wait, I called back again and angrily enquired why did you not connect me? Operator said, “sir you do not need me. You can dial from your phone anytime”. So things worked this way also? I was so ignorant.


We got a phone connection at home in late 1980s. Landlines would often go bad. One could hear a gurgling sound when received is picked. Many weekends one had to stand infront of linemen of the locality and beg them for resolving the issue. Technicians managing landline used to be powerful.  For money, these technicians could connect person X’s line for long distance call to person Y. Many had side businesses beyond managing MTNL.

Then came, mobile phone. I got my first mobile phone in early 2000. Since then so much has changed. Today my cell phone and that of my maid or that of my boss may differ in the type of handset we use. But we can choose what plan we subscribe to. 

Phone has become increasingly smarter. We can do shopping, banking and many other things using our phone. More importantly, we do not have to beg for better service. Today, we have many service providers. Competition is intense. So, officers in phone company treat customers with patience lest they lose a customer. Such a sea change from days of monopoly of government operated MTNL. Technology has brought in such sea change in lives of people.


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