If anything could bring joy to an Old Guy Who Breaks Things, it would have to be Bakelite. Pretty much indestructible unless you hit it with a hammer. (Its eventual replacement by more resilient plastic makes you wonder if frustrated telco customers actually did.) Also reassuringly solid, heavy and unyielding, Bakelite would never let you down. Which is why phones were made out of it, back in the day. You could harangue who you chose, free of witnesses or body language, and then slam the handset down with a triumphant “that’s you told” clunk. (The young folk at work like to refer to handsets as “slammables”). You knew where you were with a Bakelite phone.
Today it’s all different. Phone: device for taking pictures. Watch: device for counting steps. Soon, glasses: device for augmenting reality (rose tint optional). The form and function of technology are only loosely moored to each other. Breaking phones is no longer a physical challenge. You just drop them in the toilet. But telephone habits endure. We still “dial people in” to videoconferences, with narry a dial in sight. And 140 years later, we’re still using phones for Alexander Graham Bell’s first application: avoiding the walk to the room next door.
And that’s the funny thing. Most of us seem to like there to be someone in the room next door. We don’t need to be there or go there. We like our own space. But best of all we like contiguous spaces. That’s why all this technology continues to fail to deliver the telecommuting utopia, and cities continue to expand. You in your little space, next to me in mine. It’s how social animals function. (Spacing is determined via the hedgehog’s dilemma*.)
In their widening realisation that the tops of the world’s desks and laps belong to humans, our friends at Microsoft have been making bold strides to embrace this phenomenon. First, they have invented the phone system - or more precisely, the Microsoft Phone System, which replaces the conceptual cloud in the middle of any telephone network diagram with, well, the cloud. (Confused? You should be. My younger colleagues include some of the few initiates, just call us.)
And second, they are moving us all to a new paradigm in human behaviour - Teams. A cursory glance at the Ascent of Man would tell you this is more anthropology than technology. But, to give credit where it’s due, a couple of hundred thousand years since humans started doing it, Microsoft Teams now allows them to share their everyday experiences, solve life’s problems and pursue common goals, each in their own space, but still connected, close and familiar - sharing a purpose without having to share a room.
Teams is a big deal, just as much as teams are a big deal. To be positioned for Office 365, you have to be positioned for Teams, the youngsters tell me. Let me know if you want them to fill you in.
Oh, and you will be relieved to hear that all current endpoints in Microsoft’s Skype for Business ecosystem will be supported by Teams. Whatever that means...
I wonder if they do any of them in Bakelite?
*Use your imagination. Or that popular alternative, Google.)