I’ve talked about the TTY, but I wanted to touch on the influence of technology on deaf life. Again, this is just what I grew up around, so obviously not all deaf people may have this exact experience.
Growing up, my parents always had the newest technology before most people that I knew. I remember my parents having pagers to reach each other, but I also remember being way too young to understand what it really was.
The next communication device I remember them having was a T-mobile Sidekick and a Blackberry. I loved the Sidekick. I was that kid that was constantly taking my mom’s phone to play games. I was basically the epitome of “You got games?” This was also the era of flip phones, and I remember feeling extremely cool because my parents had cool and high tech phones and I could do so much on their phones.
My parents moved on to Iphones once they became even more popular, and technology has really helped and also hindered their lives. Once again, referencing one of my favorite comedians, Keith Wann, he mentions how talking has turned into just texting and ignoring real life. This is actually one of my favorite jokes and I share it often with people.
When it comes to home phones, my set up has always been similar to the norm, but with some added accessories. Growing up, we had something called a TTY. It is essentially a keyboard with a tiny screen. There were a few TTY options, and we had one that had a phone attached and one that was just the keyboard.
With the TTY, there’s a few options when it comes to actually calling people. You could either call someone directly from TTY to TTY, or call them through relay. I hate relay. Nothing against the people that worked there, but it was just always strange talking to a stranger pretending to be your mom or dad.
There is also something that I call TTY grammar. With that little screen, it’s hard to figure out when each person is done with their thought, so when you’re done with a thought, you end the sentence with GA, which stands for Go Ahead. But, if you’re the person speaking on the phone to a relay operator, you have to actually say Go Ahead, which again always felt so weird, but typing this out now, I’m getting very distinct flashbacks. And when your conversation is completely over, you end with SKSK. I have absolutely no idea what that stands for and I have never understood why we couldn’t just say bye and hang up, but I went with the flow.
Now, technology has really grown. Instead of keyboards and random operators, we have Video Phones, also called VP. So now, my mom and dad have video phones attached to the TV and they can basically just chat with their friends whenever. And relay has changed as well. Instead of having random people, the operators have to be able to sign so that they can relay the message.
Another thing to point out about the TTY is that it acted as an answering machine if you didn’t answer quick enough. But the noise it would make if you didn’t answer was this terrible high pitched, robotic beep. I hated that noise and I can’t help but cringe just thinking about it.
Growing up, I was always an interpreter. It was always just easier for me to show up and interpret with either of my parents, than for them to have to order an actual interpreter. Because of that, I definitely learned more than I should have at a young age. For a couple years, I would go to my brothers parent teacher conferences and interpret, when in reality, it probably wasn’t any of my business how he was doing in school. It was never much of an issue for me, but as a child, interpreting was both natural and a hassle, just because I was lazy and didn’t want to go to appointments that weren’t for me.
Even to this day, I still interpret occasionally for my parents. At holidays, I interpret prayers or speeches, and I occasionally will join a parent at the eye doctor, although they both are fairly good at communicating without me. I tend to still be the middle man when it comes to party planning, or just making sure that everything is understood and clear.
I don’t mind interpreting, however when I was younger, I felt like I had a lot of responsibility that I didn’t always want. Because of the conversations that I was in on, I always just felt like I couldn’t always just be a child, because I was helping my parents do grown up things. I don’t necessarily think it ended up being a bad thing, but at that time, I hated it. But now, it’s something that I’ve considered pursuing.