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Snippet: How the Telephone Failed Its Big Test During 1918’s Spanish Flu Pandemic ☇

Shared on April 5, 2020

Harry McCracken:

Being cooped up at home during a pandemic is not fun. But in 2020, it doesn’t involve being disconnected from the outside world. Actually, thanks to the internet, the greater risk is that you might end up feeling overwhelmed by information.

Now rewind 102 years to the outbreak of the so-called Spanish flu of 1918. In many ways, the upshot was eerily similar to our current conundrum. Local directives shut down everything from kindergartens to saloons; quarantines kept people out of work and away from friends and family. Nobody talked about implementing “social distancing” out of “an abundance of caution,” but they practiced it in spades.

And one piece of technology promised to help life go on: the telephone.

With all of its faults, technology today has allowed us to stay connected in multiple ways. Even with a home internet outage, I have multiple devices an options to still reach out to the world. As much as the landline phone is seen as a boring, reliable, mundane technology today, there was still a struggle for it to keep up back then. The issue was related to human factors, much like every large company’s “calling us right now will result in a long wait” messages today.

Snippets are posts that share a linked item with a bit of commentary.