I remember the Christmas that I got my first pair of walkie talkies and that was a loooong time ago. The year was 1976; they were the coolest gadget in those years and almost every 7 to 10 years old kid in the neighborhood had to get his pair and like an industrial monopoly they all were from the same brand and same model. Those big black boxes with their big orange button to talk and a less prominent button for Morse code also had a scroll wheel marked with numbers from 1 to 8 to choose different frequencies (channels). The package that contained these state of the art communication devices claimed a range of 100 yards but to me it seamed to be less than 50 yards.
It didn’t take us long to find out that since they were the same brand and model that we could communicate not only with the other walkie talkies that paired the same box but with any other kid that had one too. To this day I haven’t seen another machine that could devour a 9v battery faster than those walkie talkies so before going to sleep I used to spend minutes (I wish they were hours) browsing social networks (in those days terms “changing frequencies”) to find another kid to chat with.
It felt like total freedom to ride our bicycles around the whole neighborhood while talking to each other on these wonderful gadgets. One day riding alone a few blocks away from home I started changing frequencies asking if there were someone to talk to and for my surprise when I reached channel 7 I heard this murky low tone of voice asking me to log in (actually he asked me for my name and physical address). This bully kid told me that I was not allowed to use my device because I was in a restricted area reserved to members only and that I had to leave the network immediately or pay 4 batteries as membership fees (batteries became the established currency around my neighborhood in those days). I replied that he was crazy and that nobody would touch my precious batteries over my dead body and as soon as I finished my sentence more other voices joined the chat room. I tried to change channels but they were everywhere. They were trolling and flaming me with so much spam that they almost crashed (actually the battery drained) my walkie talkie so I decided to just ride away from the range of their network.
Back in to my territory I found out that I wasn’t the only one flamed on that same network. Since those talkies (as we used to call them) were preprogrammed with channel 1 out of the box, everybody decided to leave it free for newbies only. Soon after my flame incident, my friends and I decided to seek for revenge and create our own network around the less crowded channel 5; we also created a clever way to enter a password that required to go to channel 8 and enter a Morse code then return to channel 5.
It felt special to be part of our network, more so when we had the chance to troll and spam anyone who wasn’t allowed to communicate in our channel specially those trolls of channel 7.
Twenty years later in 1996 I became a proud owner of the latest and greatest gadget of its time the Motorola Star TAC. Every where you went at anytime of the day you had to be seen talking on this phone. People used to stop you on the street just to ask you: Is that the new flip? making remarks such as: Wow! that thing is so small and beautiful! Few were the moments that the bloody thing wasn’t stuck to my ear.
Little was I expecting when I receive my first bill. Ouch!…. I wondered if I could pay with a bunch of old wasted batteries. Since I signed for an unlimited calls contract I was never expecting to be billed this huge amount of money so I decided to call my service provider expecting an apology on their part but as a flash from the past the reason they gave me was that most of my calls were made beyond my network area limits, they also stated that I had to pay immediately or bring my business somewhere else. What??
Going back to the future and just a few month ago I decided to find all my inmates from high school on the “wonderful” and very “friendly” social network Facebook. I used their very useful “find friends” tool but every time that I entered a name a bunch of people with the same name appeared with different pictures so I decided to choose the person that resembled the most to my friend (s) on the pictures and send a friend request. Two days later Bam! It struck again when I received a list of seven people attached to a message from Facebook. The message implied that I had to stop using their network to spam other users and that I should undo the “friend request” that I sent to the people in the list or I was going to be banned from their network. Wow!
I only hope that no one in that list is the bully kid from channel 7.
Today I realize that so very little has changed since those walkie talkie days, only that now we pay our network access to big corporations with real dollars instead of paying with old batteries to the bully kid from channel 7. Luckily there is still the always free channel 1. It is up to us to find it, that’s why it is very important to know how to choose your frequency.
Until next time.