Infinite Scrolling

Friday, 22 December 2017

The ever changing telephone: how much the telephone has changed in a few decades.

There was a time when we did not have a single telephone. In the early sixties telephones in India were only in a few homes. Things changed and we also got a telephone at our home. It was a black ebonite telephone with a circular dialer.

When a call came it would let out a rather startling ‘TRINNGGG TRINGG’ sound. It was quite an experience for us kids to gingerly say ‘Hello” in the mouth piece while holding the hand set with both our hands, and being a little surprised when the voice in the telephone also said ‘hello’.

It soon became the neighborhood telephone. Those of our neighbors who did not have a telephone at home would come over to make calls. If a call came for one of our neighbors, the handset would be kept off the cradle with a quick request “please hold ‘ to the caller and the nearest kid at hand used to be sent of to call the neighbor for whom the call had come. Our telephone number would be given out by our neighbors to their friends and family.

Sometimes the call would drop by the time the neighbor arrived. This used to be disappointing. Specially if the call had been received long distance or from abroad.

Those days long distance calls had to be booked through an operator at the exchange. Higher charges had to be paid if the call was needed urgently.

If you were not having a telephone then you could go to the post and telegraph office and make a call on the public telephone.

Things got better as more and more telephones became available and coin operated telephones were installed in public places.

Booking long distance calls still required a visit to the post and telegraph office. One would book the call get a coupon and sit in line till the call came through. Telephone booths were installed and there was a time limit to the call.

This was the way things were till the  mid eighties when things started changing. One could now activate the international calling facility on the phone. For those who did not have this facility manned telephone booths came up. An electronic meter would display the duration of the call and the booth owner would charge accordingly. This really changed things and keeping in touch become much easier. Even though on most occasions it meant standing in a queue.

Life went on like this for a decade or so when the mobile phone appeared.

The good old telephone was now referred to as ‘fixed line’. The familiar ringing sound of the telephone, now the fixed line, was heard lesser and lesser.

Now our home has a fixed line. It hardly ever rings. Its main purpose is providing broadband.

Everyone has a smartphone now.

We are always in touch.

There are numerous ringtones. The old ‘tringg, trinng’ sound is heard only if someone uses if for the smartphone.

Earlier we would walk to our telephones

Now we are inseparable from our smartphones which are much more than just a phone.

The smartphone seems to be outsmarting us!

Friday, 15 December 2017

The day I switched off my TV: how the way we watch TV has changed with technology.

It was the mid sixties when I, as a young boy, first saw a television (TV). We lived in New Delhi at that time and had gone to visit a relative of ours. It was fascinating to see this box which magically showed moving pictures.

It was soon after that we had a TV of our own. It was installed in our living room.

A strong memory associated with the arrival of the TV relates to our home becoming a TV lounge for our neighbors.

On weekends there used to be a special popular show. For this our living room used to become a small ‘TV theater’.

Those of our neighbors who had yet to purchase their own TV would come over, especially the kids, for seeing this popular show. It was a practice which went on for a few years till TVs become commonplace.

About a year back I stopped watching TV.

I used to mostly switch on the TV for news. News become available through the internet so easily that there was no real need to switch on the TV for that. The smartphone, the computer and the tablet became the source of news.

For movies I still use the TV. But these movies are also served through the internet.

The WiFi connection has now become as essential as the satellite TV set top box.

In the last half a century we saw the TV towers and rooftop antennas come and go. And the internet WiFi has become an option to the satellite TV dish.

Tall TV towers that many big cities have in their midst are monuments to that earlier time, of just a few decades back.

So from a time when few had TVs we have reached a time when everyone has TVs.

From a time when we used to go the neighbors houses just to watch TV to a time when we may choose not to switch on the one at our own home.

Jastej Singh Matharu

Friday, 8 December 2017

E rickshaw the ubiquitous vehicle: grass route technology is improving lives of people

E-rickshaw in traffic

View from an e-rickshaw

The roads in Indian cities and towns have a variety of vehicles transporting people. From cars to the cycle rickshaw.

A relatively new entrant to this mix is the e-rickshaw. They are to be seen everywhere, providing last mile connectivity. They come in ingenious designs and shapes and sizes and are painted in lively colors.

This is a wave of technology which is reachable for a common person. A wave of technology which allows clean transport and a means of earning a daily wage. They are not using path breaking technology. But are using everyday technology. But most importantly they are using technology which is cost effective and affordable. This is the reason for the numbers of these e-rickshaws growing steadily.

The batteries used are normal lead-acid batteries and can be easily charged. They are used only within a town so a charging point is never too far. So everything is falling into place.

On a recent visit to Jaipur we found the e-rickshaw everywhere. In the walled pink city area you could just hop into an e-rickshaw and reach your destination. For short distances of up-to 2 to 3 kilometers the ride cost only 20 Indian Rupees (31 Cents).

You get in and the driver flips a switch and turns the accelerator grip and the e-rickshaw takes off. The maximum speed is around 20 kilometers per hour. This is enough in congested areas and at these speeds the vehicle is quite stable. The width is enough to seat four passengers facing each other with two passengers on each seat. Along with the driver this lively little machine carries 5 persons, sometimes more!

Some drivers own their e-rickshaws while others hire them from e-rickshaw owners and after paying the hiring charges are able to make money for themselves. The driver we took a ride with sounded happy when he told us “I prefer this to a job, it gives me freedom of working hours and I am able to earn the same as what a job would give me”. The freedom made him happy.

The frame of these e-rickshaws are made from hollow metal pipes and sheets. Some carry the brand of the e-rickshaw manufacturer. Others have brands of both the fabricator and the automotive components integrator. 

The vehicle is three wheeled. The front wheel has coil springs to soften the ride. The rear wheels use a differential and axle casing which is attached to the e-rickshaw chassis frame through leaf springs. The wheels have pneumatic tyres which along with the suspension springs help to make the ride smooth. This arrangement works well enough as the e-rickshaw has a maximum speed of 20 kilometers per hour and  at these speeds the ride is comfortable.

The electric motor is mounted directly on the rear axle casing and gives drive to the differential through a bevel gear. This motor is powered by batteries which are mounted under the passenger seats. It takes 3 to 4 hours to charge the batteries and the e-rickshaw is good for about 80 kilometers of running. A typical ride being only 2 kilometers, the e-rickshaw driver can expect to have 30 to 40 paying passenger rides, giving him an earning of 600 to 800  Indian Rupees (USD 9 to 13 a day) in a day.

A set of mechanical brakes complete the vehicle.

A simple vehicle, the technology for which is available easily and is easy to learn. This vehicle has now reached most towns in India. An economical solution which is finding favor with the drivers and passengers and is a clean energy vehicle.

A wonderful unfolding story of life being enriched on Indian roads, by simple technology.

This bottom up sustainable solution for transportation in the last mile has taken root and is growing. Contributing to cleaner air in an affordable, economical, practical and useful manner.

PS: also see my blog post 
My take on the future of EVs
Electric Vehicles in India: we are at a cusp of change

Tenets I followed: Facts not opinion