Andy Palmer: If your house looks like its been possessed, you’ve got the right telephone alerter

Posted on March 14, 2014

Technology moves on. We all know that.

Just look at your mobile phone to see Kaizen theory in action. Small improvements over time make a big difference. If you were to tell me in 1998 that my mobile phone would do all the things it does today, I wouldn’t believe you. I’d just about calmed down from discovering I could send a text message.

Going back even further, I remember my first bewildered look at a textphone. Well, I say textphone but I mean clanking leviathan. I was small and it was big. The only memory I have is looking up at this big brown metal thing on the sideboard dispensing bits of ticker tape. Maybe someone knows what it was called but from there we had progress. We then moved to Vistel, then to Minicom, then a pager, then a fax machine, then a Nokia communicator, then a mobile phone and email and now my folks don’t even have a land-line phone. Not even bothered. That’s progress.

But one bit of technology I think may have gone in the wrong direction is telephone or doorbell alerting. Now, I say this with a good degree of experience as a manager of a team that sells these things mixed in with a bit of nostalgia. Sure, home alerting pagers and flashing strobe lights are great and very useful. They can be be put in various rooms or carried around and alert to baby alarms and smoke alarms too but they stop well short of the ‘full effect’.

I’m talking about the full, 2am, every light-in-the-house flashing, wake the hell up immediately, mega-strobe-alert, effect.

Our house, like many others I suspect, had a system whereby when the phone rang or doorbell was pushed (ours didn’t even make a sound) every light in the house that was on got turned off and every light that was off got flashed on. 24 hours a day. Its a helluva way to be woken up.

Everyone in the house knew if we had a phone call or a visitor. It was inescapable. Most people outside the house knew too. When the nights were drawing in and the curtains still open, everyone in the street could see our flashing house going off like a building possessed. That house is alive! CALL THE PRIEST!

I remember walking back from school one day and being  around 100 metres away from making it home. I could see the outside light, yes, the new outside light on the side of the house began to flash. The phone is ringing! I knew instantly by the distinctive flash pattern.  This was in the days when missing a phone call meant you actually could miss out on something you wanted to do. I had to get there before the fax machine kicked in. RUN! Run like the wind, Andy!

Peruse the catalogues, look online. Nothing these days comes close to that. Unfortunately, the company that made that system closed down and new energy efficient light bulbs mean it wouldn’t work well anyway.

Maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all. It was always hard getting back to sleep after the phone rang at night with the image of my older brother’s panic-stricken face burned on to my retina.

By Andy Palmer, Deputy Editor. Andy volunteers for the Peterborough and District Deaf Children’s Society on their website, deaf football coaching and other events. Contact him on twitter @LC_AndyP Check out what our supporters provide: 


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