Feb 11, 2011
How cellphones have changed the way we communicateBack
Cape Town|Africa|Facebook|Twitter|Africa|South Africa|United States|Julia|Morris
© Reuse this
If I wanted to meet somebody, I would try to phone them and, if they were not around, I would leave a message with whoever would have answered the call that I had called and to phone back and, sure enough, in a day or two, I would get a call-back.
There were other forms of communication. Often, I would say, hey, do you ever see ol’ whats- itsname and, if the answer was yes, I would say something like, ok, when you see him, tell him Jack got married. You get the idea?
Communication was by word of mouth, largely. One also wrote letters. I had a very long correspondence with girlfriends. For some reason, I always fell in love with girls who lived in other towns and we wrote regularly. It took up the time at nights which, since TV only arrived in South Africa in 1976, were relatively empty (I couldn’t afford to drink).
This changed when we all got cellphones, Twitter and Facebook. Back in the day, we also used to visit each other and catch up on news. We would drop in at a student house and chat away about what and who and it was all very pleasant and I miss it – lots. I cannot imagine that the young people, texting away like mad things, have as much fun as we had
I am not just indulging in nostalgia – there is a point to all this, and it is this: from time to time, I employ a builder called Morris and his friend, Rasta. Morris and Rasta cannot really read, but they are very good builders. Also, much of the time, they do not have work. Anyway, I decided to build onto the house a bit so I tried to phone Morris on his cellphone using the number that he had given me two years previously. No result. So I said to Julia, my housekeeper, do you know the cell number of Morris? Oh, she said, no, but do you want him to come here to build? Yes, said I, yes.
Two days later, Morris arrived. I showed him what work was needed and he said, fine, he’ll be back on Monday. All good. I vaguely assumed that Morris had been living in one of the townships and had got word of my job offer.
The following Monday, he came round. For a full hour, Julia and he stood by the gate and chatted. I cannot speak Xhosa, but you could easily tell the substance of the conversation. It was something like: “Oh, yes. You know old Moses? Yes? OK, now his son, not the one with the limp or the one who got married in Butterworth, the other son, well, he has just bought two cows. You know Peter? The man from the dairy farm? They’re his cows. The cows were the calves of the old cow of Bertha, the one that was struck by lightning . . .”
As Jennifer said, “a full-on kuier (visiting) session”.
The following day I asked Morris where he was living. Oh, he said, in the Transkei. Yes, I said, I know, but where now? Where had he been when Julia phoned him? Oh, he said, in the Transkei. Where? Twenty kilo- metres from Ntsaka. And Julia hadn’t actually phoned – his friend had walked from Ntsaka to tell him.
As they say in the US, go figure. Julia had told a friend of Morris that work was avail- able in Cape Town and, in a day, the vast whispering gallery of Africa had given him the message over a distance of 1 000 km. A day later, Rasta arrived. He had been nearby, a mere 900 km away and Morris had told him to stand by until Morris had found out more about the deal.
I am not suggesting that informal communication is better than cellphones, but it is still very astonishing that it works at all. But it does, and really only with the poorer people of this country. Somehow, I find this very comforting.
Edited by: Martin Zhuwakinyu© Reuse this Comment Guidelines (150 word limit)
Other Terry Mackenzie-Hoy News
Recent Research Reports
Road and Rail 2014: A review of South Africa's road and rail infrastructure (PDF report)
Creamer Media’s Road and Rail 2014 report examines South Africa’s road and rail transport system, with particular focus on the size and state of the country’s road and rail network, the funding and maintenance of these respective networks, and the push to move...
Real Economy Year Book 2014 (PDF Report)
This edition drills down into the performance and outlook for a variety of sectors, including automotive, construction, electricity, transport, steel, water, coal, gold, iron-ore and platinum.
Real Economy Insight: Automotive 2014 (PDF Report)
This four-page brief covers key developments in the automotive industry over the past 12 months, including an overview of South Africa’s automotive market, trade figures, production and the policies influencing the sector.
Real Economy Insight: Construction 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the construction industry over the past 12 months. It provides an overview of the sector and includes details of employment in the sector, infrastructure and municipal spending, as well as insight into companies’...
Real Economy Insight: Electricity 2014 (PDF Report)
This five-page brief covers key developments in the electricity industry over the past 12 months, including details of State-owned power utility Eskom’s generation activities, funding and tariffs, independent power producers and prospects for the sector.
Real Economy Insight: Road and Rail 2014 (PDF Report)
This six-page brief covers key developments in the road and rail industries over the past 12 months, including details of South Africa’s road and rail network and prospects for both sectors.
This Week's Magazine
South African State-owned defence industrial group Denel has announced its fourth consecutive year of profits. The group's results for the financial year 2013/2014 were recently announced at its head office in Centurion, south of Pretoria. Revenues grew by 17%, net...
There is little opportunity for JSE-listed infrastructure company Group Five to grow shareholder value in the domestic market, says CEO Mike Upton. He says value can still be found in the private sector, in the renewable and industrial power sector, as well as in...
The National Association of Automobile Manufacturers of South Africa (Naamsa) has announced the event dates of the 2015 Johannesburg International Motor Show (JIMS). The event will take place from October 14 to October 25, 2015, at the Johannesburg Expo Centre, Nasrec.
UK engineering support services provider Babcock is set to deliver the largest order of global truck manufacturer DAF’s truck tractors in Southern Africa to bulk carrier road-based logistics company Ngululu Bulk Carriers (NBC), with 133 trucks to be delivered in...
Digital radio communications in the African local government space can open up the world, but have many challenges to overcome, notes integration and migration of legacy radio communications infrastructure with digital mobile radio company Emcom Wireless head of...
Next ArticleConsulting engineering rewinds to yesteryear