Dolly Merritt: How smart do phones need to be

I hate to admit this, but I remember when phones were used only for conversation. As a teen I used a party line - a telephone line shared by others in my neighborhood.

Many times, I would have to wait until the "party" was finished talking before I could use the phone. When I picked up the receiver, I could hear the conversation and, to be polite, I would quickly hang up and wait until they were finished.


Needless to say, my mother had received complaints from the telephone operator asking if she had a teenage daughter who was constantly tying up the phone. As a result, I was forced to curtail my endless phone talk-a-thons.

You could say, like the old Virginia Slims cigarette ad, "We've come a long way baby."

I never thought in my wildest dreams we'd be getting the weather, taking photos, shopping, using applications, texting and a host of other things from a hand-held device.

But here we were in the midst of technology and here I was, clinging to the old ways, like my husband's aged grandmother who refused to use the telephone at all.

I remember my first cellphone - some 15 years ago - that looked more like a walkie-talkie. I used it for meeting friends and keeping track of each other during various trips. Conversations were short and always had a purpose.

That phone suited my needs until I became embarrassed by more compact versions. My model with its long aerial forced me into hiding every time I received or made a phone call.

So, hopping on the techy train of phones, I got another modern one. We kept our same phone service and I was still using it only to connect during meetings, shopping and sometimes navigating unfamiliar car routes.

But as my two grandsons grew older, I realized I needed a more convenient way to communicate other than computer email.

My newest phone - not a smart phone, but smart enough - enables me to text, take photos, check on the weather and a few other things I'm not sure I'll ever use.

If I do not comprehend how to use all this technology, all I need to do is check online the multiple pages of guidelines that have an answer for everything, as long as you can understand it.

My main objective is to connect with my two grandsons, ages 21 and 12, and I learned to do that easily.

The initial texts were sent to each of them, indicating they were the first to receive the messages from my new phone. I signed it "Guess who?" and received an immediate response from both of them, one of whom asked if I was "Emma."

I reluctantly told them it was only "Mee-Mee."

Still, my new phone is serving my purpose. I like being able to dash out a sentence or two about a ballgame or any interest I can share with my grandsons as well as other members of my family and friends.


But now I'm hearing about smarter phones and phones with a huge amount of capabilities that I can never imagine using.

What blows my mind is my daughter's new phone that answers questions with an electronic voice. All she needs to do is ask.

I wonder what the answer would be to the question, "Can you teach an old dog new tricks?"