One ringy-dingy… two ringy-dingy…

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Even putting aside the fact that “They never should have broken up Ma Bell” is a Geezer reference the character is way too young to be using (as pointed out by Andréa), what does he even mean? That if Bell Telephone hadn’t been broken up there wouldn’t be any any cell phones or computers today?

27 Comments

  1. ” if Bell Telephone hadn’t been broken up there wouldn’t be any any cell phones or computers today?”

    If Bell Telephone hadn’t been broken up, there’d be one communication device in your house, wired to the wall, with no choice as to what the thing looked like or what it could do, which is make phone calls, period.

    (Most of the pieces of Bell were reassembled to form what is today known as “Verizon”.)

  2. It’s Ma Bell’s fault I can’t recognize my doorbell.
    And I suppose, without the breakup, the rectangle in my pocket could do everything except disturb me with landline phone calls.

  3. Angry people on rants don’t have to be correct. Frustration of too many communications devices leads a crank in an incredibly ugly drawn and unoriginal comic to rant about how if they hadn’t broken up Ma Bell we’d only have one device easy to recognize. Pointing out the argument simply doesn’t hold will only make him crankier.

    I’m sure we’ve all ranted about something and stubbornly stuck to our positions despite the fact that what we said originally was just plain stupid and incorrect.

  4. “Are you saying we’d be the only country in the world without cell phones?”

    If Ma Bell were allowed to control the industry, instead of being broken up.

  5. That’s actually a good question: If Ma Bell had not been broken up, would cellular telephone technology have advanced? In 1982, mobile telephones were big, expensive, and limited in number. Ma Bell had no incentive to change that.

  6. Well, like most other third-world countries, cell phone service would have come in and disrupted the old land-line “service” (which was often sooo bad that the word deserves to be in quotes); unlike other third-world countries, though, our cell service was allowed to be an oligopoly so that we have some of the worst coverage and most expensive service in the world…

  7. I don’t know. It seems like saying “If the taxi companies weren’t broken up, there’d be no Lyft or Uber.” Well, the taxi companies were not broken up. Lyft and Uber happened around them. If Ma Bell still controlled the telecommunications industry, hyperlinked portable computers would have been invented sending signals to each other over transcontinental byte highways and they would have had built-in A/D and D/A converters to convert sounds to byte convoys and byte convoys back to sounds.

  8. Ma Bell “controlled the industry” not because they were legally granted a monopoly, but because nobody had challenged the de facto monopoly they had. If the government hadn’t broken the up, it’s a pretty safe bet cell phones would have taken over from landlines either because competitors pushed Ma Bell aside, or because Ma Bell was clever enough to branch out.

  9. “If the government hadn’t broken the up, it’s a pretty safe bet cell phones would have taken over from landlines either because competitors pushed Ma Bell aside”

    On the assumption that it was possible for people with cell phones to call people with landlines, sure. If people with cell phones can only call other people with cell phones.

    “nobody had challenged the de facto monopoly they had. ”

    Unless you count all the companies that challenged the monopoly. GTE, for example. (Thanks to the breakup of Ma Bell, and the subsequent administrations that allowed them to regroup, GTE merged with one of the Baby Bells and was absorbed into the reconstituted Bell system, now known as Verizon… a company with substantial holdings in both landline services and wireless.)

  10. ” If Ma Bell still controlled the telecommunications industry, hyperlinked portable computers would have been invented sending signals to each other over transcontinental byte highways and they would have had built-in A/D and D/A converters to convert sounds to byte convoys and byte convoys back to sounds.”

    You’re just moving sideways to “if IBM still controlled the computer industry…”

  11. Some people think that Ma Bell breaking up was a good thing, which spurred competition, which in turn spurred innovation, which resulted in the plethora of neat and fascinating gadgets that we have today.

    In other words, we have the Ma Bell break-up to thank for the state of communications technology today.

    Whether that’s true or not, this cartoon is showing a technological curmudgeon pining for the days when we didn’t have all this “convenience.” Less technology, simpler times.

  12. When Bell owned the phones, the ring tone of every phone was the same, and did not sound like any doorbell.
    Today, if you have three phones with programmable ring tones and a doorbell, you might have to identify the source of fifteen or twenty different “alert” sounds.
    I wish I’d found a way to use the word “tocsin”. Maybe next time.

  13. “Even putting aside the fact that “They never should have broken up Ma Bell” is a Geezer reference the character is way too young to be using”

    Despite his young look, someone in the comic has called him ‘Dad’. He’s probably old enough to remember what was happening in the early 80s. I do. However, he’s got the added bonus of retaining all of his hair. I don’t.

  14. Stan, ‘the early 80s’ are almost 40 years ago, now. It’s totally reasonable to have a teenage child and not even be born until the mid-80s, and if his kid is a pre-teen being born in the 90s is believable. Even a late-teen kid wouldn’t necessarily put dad’s birth into the 70s.

    And, using canon, about a week ago he referred to having a flip-phone when he was ‘a kid’, which suggests his teenage years were this century, putting him in his 20s or 30s.

  15. I had something that could be called a “flip phone”… that was a landline phone, not a cell, and it was almost 40 years ago. My teenage years were within “this century” (the last 100 years), but that doesn’t put me in my 20’s and 30’s….

  16. Kamino, where is it made clear that the person saying ‘Dad’ is a teenager? My dad’s nearly 80 and I still call him Dad.

    In any case, even if it is a teenager, I have friends who are my age with young teenage kids and I’m not yet 50 (close though). That could easily be me sitting there, albeit with less hair. I was a kid in the 80’s, but I do remember Ma Bell being broken up and the effects of it. I may not have understood all the nuances, but I do remember it being discussed on TV and amongst the adults around me.

    I also have memories of the Falkland Island issue, Sally Ride blasting off into space, and Regan’s Star Wars plans. And this summer, I’m going camping with my same-aged buddy and his 14 year old son.

    It seems you know far more about the background of this comic than I do, but without that knowledge, this guy could easily have a clear memory of the 80s and have a teenage son.

  17. I don’t know how old the kid is (I might if I’d read more than 2 or 3 week’s strip to get context for this one), but he’s clearly not an adult because a) the father is described as a ‘stay at home dad’ in the strip description, b) he appears to be about 5′ tall, c) he’s shown in school.

  18. If that 14 year old is your friend’s first child, they are an extreme outlier. The average age for first births in 2004 is ~25.

    Given a reasonable age range of the birth of the kid, from 20-30, assuming he’s an only child (as all evidence – no siblings are mentioned) and around 13 (likely the upper range, given his appearance), dad was probably born somewhere between 1975 and 1985, and no 7 year old (the oldest he can reasonably be expected to be) has ever paid attention to the Telecom business.

  19. Granted, he was an oldish parent (mum’s only a couple of years younger) but I wouldn’t say they’re extreme outliers. Giving birth in your early to mid-thirties is not that uncommon, I don’t think…not extreme, surely. You know, you’re more settled, you have a job, you’ve got your ducks in a row by that age, so why not have a baby? There must be a significant minority of people who think that way. My dad was 30 in the 70’s when I was born, and my sister came three years later, so it’s not even a new trend.

    Anyway, I don’t think it’s that unusual, and having no prior knowledge of the backgrounds of the characters in this comic, I defend my view that this guy could have easily known enough about the telecom business to make a reference to it.

  20. The plural of anecdote is not data, admitted, but my experience lines up with Stan’s: of my 50 year old friends, one has a 19 and 16 year old, one has a 6 and 4 year old (or there-abouts), one has an 18 and a 16 year old, one has a 14 or 16 year old, and a 11 or 13 year old, and one has no children; my mid 50s friends have a 14 year old, a 15 year old, a 23 year old, and a 27 year old; and my early to mid 40s friends have a two year old, a four year old and the other a 4 year old and a 7 year old. I am not close friends with anyone who has kids and is in their 30s.
    I suggest the average data might cluster differently among different socio-economic groups, so while being “average”, it basically represents no one’s actual real world experience…

  21. My father was 45 and my mother 37 when I was born. There was an earlier child who died in infancy, though I think only two or three years earlier. My sister came along five and a half years later.

  22. Oops, I just remembered my one outlier friend who might still just be in his 30s who has 3 kids, one is like 11, one must be 9, and the other 2 or 3. The fact that he is clearly atypical for our friends I think proves the rule….

  23. “If that 14 year old is your friend’s first child, they are an extreme outlier. The average age for first births in 2004 is ~25. ”

    My sister and I are less than 6 years apart in age. My daughter is married and in graduate school, hers is in kindergarten this year.

  24. James Pollock – I had that flip phone and loved it. About 5 or 6 years ago it was destroyed in an accident in the house. I now have a “trim line” type phone which hangs on the wall next to my side of the bed (as the flip phone did). Unfortunately when we start using the ac every year, the trim line has to be taken off the wall and put on my (already filled) night table as the ac is over it and sets it shaking in its holder and making noise – never had that problem with the flip phone.

  25. If AT&T had not been broken up – dividends from it would be much easier to keep track of.

    I am 7 years older than my younger sister and she is 5 years older than “the baby”. Robert is 9 years older than his sister.

    From my middle sister -our oldest “nibling” (a niece) is 30, her brother is 28, step nephew from my baby sister (or her husband and his late wife) is 27 – not a bad grouping. Robert’s older niece is 17 and her younger sister is 8 (both adopted from China) which gives us quite spread – the oldest 3 could each be a parent of the youngest one (if any of them dated anyone or got married). My niece is, among other things, a permanent sub in the school district that Robert’s sister & BIL live in. When she had Robert’s older niece in one of her classes – each of them, separately, called us to tell us as they were both so excited. (And to add to the dispersion – the oldest two are Jewish, the middle one is Episcopalian – his mom was – sisters and her husband are both Jewish, but he is so rather nominally as he has Asperger’s and regular school was enough for him to deal with – and the youngest two are Roman Catholic.)

    We, of course, have Teddy bears and their friends instead (which along with Cabbage Patch Kids and others all of the niblings have enjoyed playing with over the decades.

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