The Dummies Guide to the Evolution of Voice to Multimedia

Once upon a time a young boy picked up a shell on the beach. He put it to his ear.

“Mummy,” he said in excitement, “I can hear the sea!”

“Don’t be silly,” she replied, and promptly replaced the shell with two tin cans connected by a piece of string. “This works far better,” she told her son, “And you can talk to others, not just yourself.”

The young boy nodded. Mother always knows best, he thought.


Soon after, the tin cans were dented, the string frayed, and the mood somber. The young boy came across a discarded megaphone. He tried it but it would not function, so he showed it to his mother.

“It needs new batteries,” she said. “Can you buy me some please?” he asked. “Of course,” his mother replied, “But you will need to give me some of your pocket money to ensure I keep your supply topped up, otherwise I cannot guarantee continuity of service,”

The young boy was slightly confused by all this jargon, but agreed anyway. After all, a megaphone would mean more people could hear him. And his friends would be very impressed. But the megaphone broke, so the young boy went to see his mother about getting his pocket money back.

She was having none of it. “We have a contract,” she told her son. “I will give you something else to replace it, and all you have to do is pay me a little more each week.”

“But why?” he asked. “It’s not my fault that the megaphone broke.” “That may be your point of view,” his mother answered, “But I am duty-bound now to provide you a service.” And she promptly put a mobile phone in his hand.

Wow, thought the young boy.What a trade-off! Now he could dial all his friends’ numbers, and send text messages, and even take photos. Never mind that he had no pocket money left at the end of the week, this was a big step forward in his eyes.

The months went by, the phone was used to its full capacity until suddenly, one day, it turned itself off. No manner of button-pressing, shaking or dismantling would make it work again.

The young boy went to his mother. “It’s died,” he told her. “That’ll be because it has been overtaken,” she said. “By what?” he asked, looking around for signs of a car. “By cloud technology,” she answered, “The future of all unified communications.”

The young boy looked up at the sky. He was confused. “I can’t see it,” he told his mother. “No, none of us can,” she acknowledged. “It’s all in the future.” And promptly gave her son a pen and a piece of paper and told him to write a letter of complaint to the Telecoms Ombudsman.

Sabina Mangosi Regan

Reformed investment banker who saw the telecoms light.