Sometime soon I’ll have to explain to a whole generation of pupils what an ‘answering machine’ was. I’ll mention it in a lesson and someone will ask me to elaborate. As they have done with modems, and floppy-disks and dial-up Internet connections and the Tamagotchi ( I ended up baby-sitting so many at school that I banned them)
Even I tend to hang up now when I’m asked to ‘leave a message’. I don’t. I send a WhatsApp. Times are a changing.
But there’ll always be a place in my heart for the telephone answering machine.I had a proper stand-alone answering machine before I last moved house and I treasured it. Long after Sir Tim Berners-Lee delivered to us the World Wide Web as an infinitely better way to connect with each other, there were those of us who retained a soft spot for landlines and answering machines.
I would come home, play and then save the messages that mattered to me. The ones from my Father were the ones that I treasured. When he would call randomly just to say hello. At odd hours and with odd comments. But it was his voice, and after he became ill and the messages stopped, and then when he died that contact-on-file became even more important to me.
So it was with great sadness that I finally disconnected the landline and let him go. It was right to do it — to have archived the messages would I think have been weird. But for those few months I loved my answering machine and how when I needed to, it could bring my Father back, hear him call my name and speak to me for a few fleeting moments.
I am no Luddite. I embrace technology — goodness, it’s given me an entire career. But I do have a great fondness, a sentimental attachment, to what has gone and been lost forever in recent times. We discard so much, so fast. I hope we’re not mistaken.