This So-Called Post-Post-Racial Life

November 2, 2009

‘Til It’s Gone, Again

Filed under: Uncategorized — pprscribe @ 6:25 pm

"telephone dial." Leo Reynolds,

A re-post from this past spring, on the occasion of falling back. Recently I have gone retro with my mobile telephone ring tone. Instead of the annoying song that used to play when someone calls, now my cell phone rings like an old rotary-dial land line phone. My kids think it is the funniest thing—and think it is amazing that everyone’s phone sounded pretty similar….


So I spent Sunday morning walking around the house, re-setting all the clocks. The microwave oven, the regular oven, three alarm clocks, two automobiles…

At about the third change I had a random thought:

Hmmm. None of these clocks has a dial.

A dial. A circular disc or knob with markings of some sort that you can manually rotate.

Most people would probably acknowledge such a thought, then let it go to move on with their day. In my case, the thought nagged off and on at the edges of my consciousness for the next couple of days.

With some discomfort I came to the conclusion that there is not a single dial in my house. Not on my telephones, or clocks, or stovetop, or computer, or television. Not even on any children’s toys. No dials. Anywhere.

When did this happen? When did my home make the technological leap from manual knobs to fully digital, LED-lit controls? I suspect it was not so much a leap as kind of technological creep. One year the computer with the dial to control volume is replaced with one with more memory and better features that—quite unnoticed—has two buttons marked with little speaker type graphics to make sound softer or louder. Another year the old, huge microwave with the knob you turn to 2:00 to make a bag of Orville Redenbacher was replaced with the sleeker model that uses a touch screen. And although I still speak of having a contact on “speed dial” it has been many phones ago since I actually put my index finger through a hole on a disc and moved it round to dial someone’s number.

No more dials here.

I never voted on this move. There was never any big national initiative, perhaps like the move from analog TV, to phase out dials.

Honestly, I never really missed dials—hadn’t realized that I had none, even—until the other day. I cannot say that I have been particularly dissatisfied by the tools that have replaced dials. A more environmentally-attuned person might comment on the human-environment disconnect that comes from less interaction with the machines that we create…a lessened ability for everyday people to actually fix machines themselves using tools from their own homes…an increased bias towards disposability rather than maintenance.

My feelings of loss about dials is not this noble, however. My feeling has more to do with the fact that I was not even aware that these implements were now absent from my space. I feel at times as if the entire universe is at my fingertips. Everything is only a click away. Everyone has a cell phone camera and the ability to uplink to YouTube. Nothing can happen without someone noticing.

But of course this is not true. Technology disappears all the time with barely a notice. Languages. People. Cultural artifacts. Stories.

Gone things can be got back—if someone notices that they’ve gone in the first place. But never in the same way. Only under the guise of “retro” or “nostalgia.”

Today I did find a dial in my house. To my knowledge it is the only one. It is an old bathroom scale hidden far in the back of a closet that no one had used in years. In fact, I did not even know that we still had it. I spent almost five minutes trying to calibrate the dial so that the scale reads “0” when no one is standing on it. I have to have my glasses on in order to read the tiny numbers and tick marks at my toes. It is not incredibly sleek and does not match my decor. But I plan to clean it up and put it in my bathroom and use it.



  1. I don’t know why I followed you down this road of foolishness *lol*

    Why did I look in the recesses of my mind to find a dail. I felt like a fool when my lady asked me what I was looking for. How do you tell someone you are looking for a dail. I mean, I can say it but what does that mean to them? It probably looked as if I was looking for my brains.

    But alas, does the dails on the washer & dryer fit the bill? Yep, I have an old Kenmore (go Sears) that I’ve been repairing for the last uptenth years.

    PPRsribe, you make me sick. I felt like I was playing solidare…. I started cheating. I dug out a few of my childrens old toys and to my delight …. I found dails. ***sticking out tongue***

    Comment by careycarey — November 2, 2009 @ 10:59 pm

  2. LOL—Well, congrats on your successful dial search!

    See, when we moved into our new house a while back, not even the washer and dryer had dials. Not even out high tech dishwasher. My kids’ toys, though? Off hand I cannot think of any dials but I may have to look.

    As for your lady, I cannot help you. What did you tell her you were looking for? Last night I was looking high and low for my keys and ended up using a spare set when I couldn’t find them. My husband later found them for me—In the refrigerator! So don’t say nothin’ about losing one’s brains.

    My father has a saying whenever anyone says “______ drives me crazy!” He replies, “Well, I bet that was a short trip.” And my father is a psychologist. LOL!

    Comment by pprscribe — November 3, 2009 @ 7:15 pm

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