Oh, the ways we communicate!

From cellular phones the size of a brick to our current crop of smartphones slightly longer than a deck of cards except thinner, our communication medium – since the invention of telephones – has always been supported by technology. Even the older-than-dirt letter writing has evolved into email thanks to technology.

Rotary and push-button telephones relied on Plain Old Telephone Services (aka "POTS"), including the earliest era of needing switchboard operators, on the telephone lines operated and connected worldwide. Cellular towers added mobility so you can be reached anytime/anywhere, freeing you from a sedentary lifestyle but cursing at robocallers. With the internet, aka the cloud, your ubiquity is now supercharged.

Remember how I always say "time" in the digital world, i.e. anything technology and supported by the internet, is like dog years (i.e. 365 days = 7 years of aging for a dog). Smartphones and tablets only came onto the scene in late 2007, a mere 13 years compared to how humanity was using stationary telephones for close to a century!

The internet has also changed how telephone service providers operate and make money. Do you recall how telephones calls that relied on POTS were broken down into local and long distance calls? I remember how I had to be cognizant of making a phone call to avoid unnecessary long distance charges, especially since I also wanted to make international long distance calls to my parents.

These days many people get residential/business phone service through their Internet Service Provider, aka "ISP," like Spectrum, WOW, or AT&T in Westlake and Bay Village. Many additionally, or in lieu of residential telephone service, have mobile phone service. In both cases, monthly fees probably include unlimited long distance calls to anywhere in the continental USA. Some mobile phone service plans even include Mexico and Canada, as we are a melting pot after all.

We have Voice over Internet Protocol, or "VoIP" for short, to thank for changing the way we are billed but more importantly contributing to the evolution of how we communicate using the always connected handheld devices like smartphones and tablets. That includes, of course, audio and the addition of visuals that elevate the emotional factor of "connectedness." Body language cues during an in-person communication can minimize misunderstandings since a simple "raised voice" without visuals can be interpreted in two widely opposite ways – discontent or elation.

I'll keep it simple here: instead of your phone calls traversing the POTS lines, the use of VoIP technology sends those calls through the internet. Just like POTS lines were connected between each country, the internet is also connected between countries. No wonder the acronym "www" that precedes website addresses, ex: www.westlakebayvillageobserver.com, stands for "Word Wide Web!"

In the next column we'll go a little deeper in how to make and receive phone calls using a Wi-Fi-only tablet or an old retired smartphone that can only connect to Wi-Fi networks. We can do this all because of VoIP technology. Stay tuned!

Tak Sato

Strategist and technologist with over 30 years of experience in the private sector. Holds Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Science and Executive MBA from Cleveland State University.

As Founder of the Center for Aging in the Digital World, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit empowering seniors with digital literacy, Tak connects the dots to help people utilize appropriate technology in their personal and professional lives while using digital literacy as a tool for seniors to avoid loneliness and social isolation

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Volume 12, Issue 17, Posted 9:31 AM, 09.01.2020