Call Waiting: A Confession

by Charles Miller on January 22, 2007

Bruce 'Tog' Tognazzini on the iPhone:

Those of you young and technologically inclined may find this difficult to believe, but the average cell phone user cannot use many features you may find standard, such as call-waiting, call-forwarding, and conferencing.

OK Tog. I'm going to put my hand up here:

  • I got my first computer for Christmas 1984, at the age of 9.
  • I still remember that to change the background colour on that computer, you had to type POKE 53281,n where 'n' is the number (0-15) of the colour you wanted to switch to.
  • The first distribution of Linux I installed had a kernel version number less than 1.0
  • I'm a self-taught programmer, earning a living developing software that has to be compatible with dozens of versions of half a dozen different databases


  • I have no idea how call-waiting works on my phone.

I'd be lucky if I got the opportunity to use call-waiting more than once a month. I don't get that many calls on my mobile to begin with, so the chance of getting two at the same time is quite slim.

When I hear the muffled beep that signals someone else coming in on the line, I experience a mild form of panic. I can pretty much work out from the display what button I need to press to put my current caller on hold, but I know from bitter experience that this is no guarantee I'll be able to get them back again later.

Given that I consider accidentally hanging up on someone to be far more rude than letting the second caller drop through to voice-mail, I just don't bother.

Except I have no voice-mail. I never could remember what number I needed to ring to retrieve them, so I eventually stopped ordering the service when I signed up for a new phone plan.

To top it all off, I'm one of those annoying people who feels the need to use entire sentences, complete with capital letters, punctuation and fully spelled-out words when I send a text message.

I think I'm getting old.

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