by Paula Gail Benson
Lately, I’ve been binge watching the 1980s “soap opera” series Dynasty and Falcon Crest. Not only is it interesting to see how the story arcs were developed and played out, but also it’s amusing to watch the use of establishing shots to indicate location. La Mirage is a hotel run by one of the characters on Dynasty. In the earlier episodes, when a scene occurred there, the same video appeared, showing the front of the hotel with its sign and two couples, one dressed in tennis whites exiting and the other wearing clothes for elegant dining entering. When the programs were viewed a week apart, I imagine people didn’t notice the duplication, but when seen back-to-back, it’s painfully obvious. Finally, in later episodes, only the hotel sign was used to designate the venue. Falcon Crest avoided the apparent duplication by showing only the exteriors of buildings without people in evidence. Of course, Falcon Crest featured several impressive architectural structures.
Another dating aspect of those series is the absence of the cell phone. If characters were stranded, they had no way to communicate with loved ones or get help unless they had access to a pay phone. Do phone booths even exist now or have they become extinct?
This pondering has led me to focus on the modern utility of the cell phone. Some people trace its earliest model to the communicators used on the original Star Trek series or Dick Tracy’s wristwatch phone. While those wonders may have initiated progress toward the pocket devices upon which we are so reliant today, I think the current cell phone is more akin to the Swiss Army knife.
According to Wikipedia, the name “Swiss Army Knife” was coined by American soldiers who had difficulty pronouncing the German word “Offiziersmesser,” which meant “officer’s knife.” While the Swiss Army knife (now produced by Victorinox) has become lauded for its numerous applications and versatility, it “was not the first multi-use pocket knife. In 1851, in Moby Dick (chapter 107), Herman Melville mentions the ‘Sheffield contrivances, assuming the exterior—though a little swelled—of a common pocket knife; but containing, not only blades of various sizes, but also screw-drivers, cork-screws, tweezers, awls, pens, rulers, nail-filers and countersinkers.’”
While the current Swiss Army knives have many of those same features, they may also have scissors, saws, and bottle openers, as well as knives. Anything needed to survive in the wild or live more easily in domesticated settings.
In fact, the cell phone is the perfect accessory for the modern law enforcement officer (see episodes of Law and Order), private investigator, or amateur sleuth. Consider all the items packed into one small item: phone, texting, email, internet, clock, calculator, navigator, camera, notepad, flashlight, weather predictor, social media, shopping apps, and entertainment apps (to get one through those long stakeouts). Imagine how Sherlock Holmes might have functioned with a handy cell phone. Perhaps he wouldn’t have even needed a John Watson. He could have recorded his own adventures with Dragon Naturally Speaking Speech Recognition Software!