ONCE UPON A TELEPHONE: An Illustrated Social History by Ellen & Emily Gwathmey Stern

ONCE UPON A TELEPHONE: An Illustrated Social History

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Among the more amusing facts in this cultural history of the telephone is that, back in the old days, women were called upon to be telephone operators because boys, who initially had the jobs, ""were ill-suited to the delicate work of telephony. Rowdy and restless, they took pleasure in insulting callers, pulling pranks, and crossing wires."" Filled with movie stills and posters, ads, and text from all kinds of sources, this lively documentary is less concerned with the evolving technology of the telephone than with the way it has been used and represented. Maxwell Smart's shoe phone is here, as is an excerpt from Nicholson Baker's Vox, as Stern (Best Bets, not reviewed) and Gwathmey (Wholly Cow!, not reviewed) rush happily from Alexander Graham Bell to the age of the fax-modem. Still, there's probably a good argument to be made that the pranks of punk kids were preferable to the icy contempt of voice mail.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1994
Page count: 144pp
Publisher: Harcourt Brace