In 1975, I was running the assignment desk at WTMJ-TV in Milwaukee when the phone company came out with a new device — a phone with (as I recall) 24 speed dial buttons. I read about it in the Wall St. Journal and called my contact at the phone company to get one of the first ones. It was such a great piece of technology for an assignment editor (although I had memorized a jillion phone numbers) that I bragged about it all over the place. I was also featured, along with my new toy, in the Milwaukee Journal business section.
I know that 1975 seems like a lifetime ago, but this was the first device since the touch tone phone that I recall dramatically changing wired communications for me. And today? Who needs speed dial with an instantly searchable library of numbers are in your pocket?
On the desk in Milwaukee, I spent a lot of time on the phone. That meant I spent a lot of time on hold, too, and I used that time to go through the White Pages of the Milwaukee phone book looking for oddball names. The city’s German and Polish populations made for some humorous entries, and I still have the notebook containing such gems as Kilborn D. Clapsaddle, Ronald W. Pinkipank, Iona Carr, and Larue Dingledein. Ah, the fruit of discovery as my “fingers did the walking.”
So now, Verizon is asking regulators in New York for permission to stop printing the White Pages there. It’s sad but inevitable. There’s no market for the things, and I have for years been publishing pictures of what I call “dinosaurs at the door” upon their annual delivery to my home.
We’ll do fine without them — as long as we have electric power — and my grandchildren will look at me funny when I tell them stories of sitting at the desk in Milwaukee with my fancy speed dial phone and thumbing through the phone book (the what, grandpa?) looking for funny names.