We Don’t Talk Any More
I operate an amateur radio station. I talk to people around the world. Or I use to. The world changed.
I grew up on an Indian (Amerindians) reservation. Our house was a quarter mile from the paved road. You had to go another quarter mile to get to the little village where 80 or so people lived. The next nearest town was across the state line.
As a small child I was forbidden to walk that last quarter mile to the village/town. I could see the houses of the village from where we lived, but they could have been on the moon.
People must have thought I was nuts, I liked school. There were others at school to play with, to talk to.
We had a TV (black and white). I remember watching Zoorama broadcast from the San Diego Zoo. We didn’t have a radio.
When I discovered radio, I discovered that you could not only listen to someone talking, but certain people had radios and they could talk to other people. I was all in.
This was in the late 1950s, early 1960s. The telephone in our house was for business and not a toy. Everything about a telephone cost money. You couldn’t even own a telephone, you rented it from Ma Bell.
So I got into Ham radio. I’ve talked to many people and have a great time.
The radio conditions vary due to the sun in an eleven year cycle. You have a string of good years followed by a string of bad years. We are in the bottom of the cycle where it’s hard to talk to people far away form you. That doesn’t mean I don’t try. I get on the radio and call and call. Lately I haven’t been making any contacts.
I just got back from a radio conference and at the conference I found that I’m not the only one that is having this problem.
Digital has invaded my hobby. It goes by the name of FT-8 and it’s like texting. Instead of talking to someone you type in some basic information. It’s worst than texting. It does allow you to contact people when condition will not allow contacts with the old ways, like voice or with Morse code. But like texting, it’s sterile, impersonal, and you’re only allowed to send a tiny bit of information. It’s just not friendly. It’s one step above junk mail.
Terry Patchett touched on this in his book Going Postal, where the clacks (a telegraph that used light signals) replaced the post office. The line in the story where a letter could be “sealed with a kiss” really stuck with me. It’s a lot more work to pick up the microphone and talk to someone ratter than send them a canned message. Can you care about someone if all you do is send them the equivalent of junk mail?
Would you rather read about someone who talks to the people they care about. I don’t think I would care about a character that just texts the important people in her life. The character need to show they care, and that’s not easy, it takes work.
When you look a child in the eye and say “I Love You”, that counts more than a million texts.
That’s what I want to show in my books.
Stay strong, write on, and you can’t say I love you too many times.
Professor Hyram Voltage