"The phone is a remarkably complex, simple device,
and very rarely ever needs repairs, once you fix them." - Dan/Panther

Main Menu

'punch' magazine article, 1931

Started by david@london, December 27, 2013, 02:00:45 PM

Previous topic - Next topic


  i happened on this exract from 'punch' on the site (bob's telephone file) .......

Extract from pages 216,217 of the humorous London magazine Punch  of 25th February 1931:


I have recently become one of those rare and interesting creatures, a Changed Man. You read about them often in novels and advertisements, but you seldom meet them in real life and still seldomer become one.
It is, I assure you, an experience worth describing, especially when, as in my case, the change is so emphatically a change for the better.

I do not mean by this that I had just been cured of drink, drugs, stammering, dyspepsia, obesity, inability to play the piano, or any other of the vulgar vices and misfortunes; in fact,  I think the previous "I" was quite a nice man really and, as men go, happy. Yet somehow I was never what is generally known as successful.  My business did not flourish as it should.  I was always on the verge of pulling off some big deal, and at the last moment the other fellow always got the better of me. But now, as I have said, I'm a Changed Man, and all because a month or so ago I installed in my office an H.C.S.

An H.C.S., or Hand Combination Set, is a technical term for the type of telephone which a benevolent G.P.O. has recently bestowed on those of us who care to pay a few extra shillings a year. No sooner had I set eyes on one of these instruments, in a friend's house, than I had to have one for myself. 
It was an aesthetic consideration that weighed with me most,  I admit.
I was that sort of man in those days.
The sturdy yet elegant contours of its base-oblong,  tapering upwards in four restful curves, and then spreading out once more with a generous sweeping pair of shining black antlers; and, lying horizontally across the antlers, unobtrusive yet ready to serve you at an instant's notice, the hand piece itself, ingeniously shaped for the perfect comfort of your palm, with its two ends drooping gracefully, glossy and black, like the ears of a favourite spaniel : these, I say, were the things that first attracted me.

Such a change from the insolent perpendicularity of the ordinary telephone, which stands all day, cocking snooks at you with up-tossed head and aggressively gaping trumpet, like a monstrous caricature of a fossilised and blackened daffodil.

It often happens that if you choose things for purely idealistic and unpractical reasons they turn to be the best for utilitarian purposes also.  (This is a profound and pleasant truth, but it must have been a ghost of the former me that wrote it down, for my present self condemns it as an unbusiness-like digression).  Anyway, hardly had the H.C.S. been installed in my office before I embarked upon my adventure of becoming a Changed Man.
The explanation of all my previous failures suddenly dawned on me.  The greater part of my business is carried on by telephone, and for years I had been suffering from acute, though undiagnosed, Telephobia; that is a semi-conscious aversion from telephoning, a feeling of physical discomfort and moral inferiority while doing so. 
For years, when conducting negotiations, I had leaned forward obsequiously in a conciliatory attitude, one hand uneasily twisted backwards behind my left ear, the other outstretched to grope for pencil and jotting pad.  After several minutes of this, I would develop a crick in my neck, an ache in my left wrist, a squint from writing with my eyes two feet to the west of my pen, and a sense of being at a complete disadvantage all round.  Small wonder indeed that the Other Man Won.

What happens now?

"Get me Mr Hogthorpe of Bunker and Breams," I say to my secretary, and while she is putting the call through I sit at ease and light a cigar.  (I can afford cigars now.)
In a few seconds, for somehow Hogthorpe does not seem to keep me waiting so long as he used to, there is a discrete buzz-buzz. 
Out goes my left hand - but in a leisurely gentlemanly fashion, mind you - for the new telephone does not clamour imperiously for attention like the old one ; rather, it respectfully invites it - like a well-trained dog who knows his place, but would be grateful all the same for a pat on the head. 
Well, you shall have it, my faithful lop-eared spaniel.
I pick up the handpiece.  One end of it caresses my ear to a nicety; the other curves gently round and remains suspended at exactly the right  distance from my mouth.  I cross my legs and lean back in my armchair.

"That you, Hogthorpe?" I say lightly in my ordinary talking key, for the H.C.S. is so sensitive that there is no need to use the old "telephone voice." 
"Well Hogthorpe, I thought you might like to know what my terms are about this Manchester scheme."

Hogthorpe demurs and argues, pleads and cajoles.  I can almost see him leaning anxiously forward, clutching his old-fashioned receiver to his servile ear. 
As for me, I am adamant.  I lean further back on my chair, rest my eyes on the tranquil expanses of the ceiling and dictate my own terms.  I only wish that Hogthorpe could smell my cigar - but that, no doubt, is a refinement that will come.

"Sorry", I say firmly," but I'm afraid your people must take it or leave it."

"We'll take it," says Hogthorpe, at last beaten, as I knew he would be - by my coolness, my confidence, my complete mastery of the situation ; beaten, in fact, by my Hand Combination Set.

I thank you, Mr P.M.G, for the invention of the H.C.S. 
But one thought haunts me: what will happen when Hogthorpe installs one too?