Now, girls and boys, if you are all sitting comfortably, I will tell you a story from a long, long time ago. This was an age before mobile phones! This was an age before message waiting lights. This was an age before the PABX knew your name! This is a story about an old corporate phone system I used to use.
The way it used to work was that each desk had a phone on it, and that phone had an extension number. If you moved desks, the phone and the phone number stayed behind, and you had to tell everyone what your new number was.
I know, sounds primitive, doesn’t it, girls and boys!
Now, we didn’t have voicemail to rely on so we learnt to rely on each other. You could program the PABX to make a second number ring if the first number was busy. We would program our phones to make our neighbours phone ring if we were on the phone. They could take a message for us.
Yes, that’s right. It is like a manual voicemail voice-recognition system, except you had to write it down. Yes, with a pen, we discussed what they were last week, remember?
Brendan used to sit near me, until one day he moved desk, and Ian took his spot.
Ian was a funny fellow.
One day, Ian needed to ring Brendan, so he looked up Brendan’s number on the phone list on his pin-up board.
What’s a pin-up board? It’s kind of like a favourites list for sheets of paper. One sheet had a phone-list, which was like a hard-copy of a database report.
Ian’s phone list was out-of-date.
Hmmm… how can I explain that concept? It’s like a cached copy of the web-site during a network outage. Never mind, just listen to the story.
Ian’s phone-list still had Brendan’s old phone number, which was Ian’s new phone number, but Ian didn’t notice. He just dialed his own number!
Yes, Ian was a funny fellow, wasn’t he?
The phone system tried to ring Ian’s number, but it was engaged! Ian was on the phone! So, it rang my phone instead.
“Hello, Julian speaking,” I said.
Ian didn’t notice that I was right behind him. “Hello, can I speak to Brendan, please?” I heard it in stereo – from the earpiece and from Ian sitting just a couple of metres from me.
“Just a minute,” I replied, and then turned around and tapped Ian on the shoulder.
As he turned, I handed him the phone and said “It’s for you!”