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The Chronology of Communication



First of all, thats not exactly the chronology, thats a kind of my experience, things which I have seen and observed in the last few years in terms of how we communicate, how we do some chit-chat with our loved ones who are living abroad.
Its not a very huge surprise but I thought that it would be interesting to share it here with everyone.

It all started when my Uncle moved to America in 1996, moved there permanently with his family. Since we had almost no means of communication back then, as there was no concept of calling cards, and per minute charges of calling USA from Pakistan was around $5, we barely used to call him. I even remember those days when we used to go to a PCO with a paper, on which everything was written which we had to say under a minute :) because the other minute could have produced a dent on our pocket.

So for casual talks, we used to write letters. I remember writing some too when I was nine years old. We usually got a reply from them within a month or two, and the conversation was kind of weird, to me atleast. It was like you are talking and talking to someone, and getting no response, so you never know what to say next. But that writing letter thing continued, and for a long time.

After that, my dad's office got an Internet connection, so we switched to E-Mail. E-Mail was fun, we were getting replies within a day, and it really seemed to work out. My mother used to write during those days too which were either faxed to him, or scanned and then E-Mailed by my dad. Both seemed instant and it felt like something really advance or state of art.

We also tried Voice chatting on MSN from our home. I remember buying dial-up scratch cards, up to Rs. 25/hour for a speed of 3-4 KBps with frequent disconnections from their server, but still we enjoyed it :) , as we were talking for Rs. 25 per hour only. There were a lot of issues, we had to adjust timings to come online, sometime there was a connection problem at either one of the end, a lot of echo and distortion in the voice, etc etc. But still we were glad that we could atleast hear their voices.

During that, my uncle would periodically call us on some occasion for few minutes, and because I was a kid, I was not allowed to talk with him on phone because of the limited call duration :) Only my mother and grand parents used to answer his call and for weeks they would discuss that 5-10 minute call, that he told this, he told that etc

After that, during 2002-03 , we started making calls to them, at the rate of Rs. 50-60/min. That was the special discount rate announced by PTCL on occasions like Eid, New Year, etc. We used to buy a Rs. 250 card of PTCL in those days to hardly get a 5 minute talk time, but we were happy, as the rates seemed quite reasonable.

Then Pakistan took a step further in Telecommunication and several private Call Service Providers jumped into the market. At that time, there was a company called BIG Time. They offered 15 minutes for Rs. 100, and we were like Oh my Gosh! Thats so CHEAP! And not only us, so many other friends and relatives of ours who used to make calls abroad looked extremely surprised and glad. We tried out the service, it was good but with some issues. The calling card number of the company which you were supposed to dial first to enter the card code was always busy. I remember trying it again and again (Once I counted my retries and it was 21!) and then you might get lucky and hear a recorded message. That went on and on for few months. In the mean time, several other companies jumped into the market and the best rate we got at that time was 40 mins for Rs.100. It was 2004-05 I guess.

Then PTCL, the primary Telecom service provider of Pakistan took a step further and dropped the calling rates for USA to Rs.2/min. That was a real blessing for everyone of us here. No more card scratches, or waiting, or re-dialing and stuff. Just pick up the phone, dial the number, and its ringing there, for such low rates. It felt awesome and its still on at the time of writing this post.

Few days ago, I saw an advertising of Ufone, my cellphone carrier, offering 100 minutes for 100 rupees, to make call anywhere in US and Canada. I found that exciting and gave it a shot, but it turned out that package had a 15 day expiry. It was not the best valued package around.

And today one exciting thing happened, which forced me to write this post. I taught my uncle how to use Skype on his iPhone, so that he can take advantage of free skype-to-skype calls. I have an iPhone here too with Skype in it, and we have decided that whenever we'd be willing to call him, I'll send him a SMS (which costs Rs 2 I guess) and he'll come online on Skype, using his cellphone (he has got unlimited data plan from AT & T). I'll meet him on skype too using my iPhone and WiFi Internet, and the reult? Free International mobile-to-mobile calls for unlimited duration :)

I don't what we'll do next. A HD video call, or a hologram chat like it was shown in CNN during American Elections, I don't know. But what I'm sure of, is that whatever it would be, it would be better and awesome!

Update: After reading this post, AT&T has blocked all VoIP calls generating from their customer cellphone, so no more that type of free lunch for me, lol! But still, we have got wifi, don't we? :)


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