My kids never seem to tire of hearing about the days when we would “cheat” the phone company by calling collect using a fake name as a coded message. That was how we signaled our in-laws that we had safely arrived back home after the 500 mile drive from their house to ours.

As soon as we would get home we would make a collect call for “Phil Johnson” and the operator would place the call to our in-laws and say, “I have a collect call for Phil Johnson will you accept the charges?” My wife’s Mom would reply, “he’s not here right now”, and the call would end with no charge to either of us.

Given that a five-minute long-distance charge back then might add ten bucks to the monthly phone bill, I’m not really sure who was cheating who in this phony transaction. Of course, that’s no longer an issue in this modern world of unlimited calling. No one even refers to “long distance” anymore as that no longer exists.

Whenever I think about those days I can’t help but remember one ham radio friend who lived down the street from us when I was a kid. He was one of those hams who assisted my entry into the hobby by showing me his shack and explaining his use of radio.

His entire use for amateur radio was so he could maintain regular contact with his brother, also a ham, who had moved thousands of miles away to Oregon. He figured that a two-hour monthly phone call would set him back at least a hundred bucks and therefore ham radio was a cheaper communication option.

I got his point, but still question his math. He had a fairly modern (for 1975) transceiver and a tri-band beam at 50-feet which surely set him and his brother back more than the long-distance charges. (He’s been dead for decades now and I never asked).

I’ve since learned of many people who got into ham radio just to avoid excessive phone bills. I hope most of them got more enjoyment out of it than just that, otherwise much of that crowd probably bailed out with the advent of free long-distance leaving me to wonder if advances in personal communication technology have helped or hurt our little rebel alliance?