They Said It Couldn’t Be Done…And Bell Telephone Showed Them!

There was a simpler time, when phones had cords, and to dial them, you had to turn a plastic disk with holes cut into it. Long distance cost a small fortune (and you even had to call after a certain time so it cost a smaller fortune). There were no cell phones, so if you needed to make a call and weren’t home, you found a phone booth…and you had to have change to make the call.

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Oh my God, phones! What happened to you?!

I was born in late 1982, and I see how dependent my generation (and the ones that are following us) react about cell phones. Cut off service, and people are aimless and wandering souls with broken spirits. In high school, my dad bought me prepaid phone cards from Radio Shack so that I could call home when I was done with play rehearsal and be picked up. I didn’t have a cell phone back then (And didn’t have one until college in 2001). The cards were $15, and lasted me for a little while. I remember when it cost 35 cents (and cheaper) to use the payphone (I think the cheapest I’ve ever used a pay phone for was 25 cents). My dad had a car phone/cell phone in a bag. It had a cord, and it also cost a small fortune to use. I saw the same phone on a MacGyver episode (this was in 2009), and it made me laugh. Mac totally tried to look badass using a phone in a bag, but in 2009, it just looked silly. In 2015, it looks even sillier.

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Not MacGyver. Not even a good imitation. Just a dork with a cell phone in a bag.

With all that has advanced in the world of phones, it’s hard to believe how much simpler life was before all the advancements, and how we survived with what we had. We did survive,but people choose to forget that kinder, simpler time when cell phones weren’t our whole world – heck, mine still isn’t my whole world, but I do have to carry it around. Kids today (and people who tend for forget) would find all of these simplicities of yesterday inconvenient (“Pay phones? Phone booths?!!!”), but for someone like me, who doesn’t use a cell phone the way most people do (glued to them like an appendage, with amputation meaning disaster!), I have never forgotten what it used to be like. After all, I carried around a Sprint phone card purchased at Radio Shack (with The Jetsons printed on it, as they were “starring” in Radio Shack commercials at the time) in my backpack.

Jetsons Phone Card(1)

I noticed that I started off a sentence with “kids today.” I’m almost 33 years old, not 73.

Uploaded by You Tube User Larry Estep

In 1970, Bell Telephone ran a series of advertisements about how “they” (with “they” being harsh critics/naysayers) said “it” (with “it” being something insurmountable) couldn’t be done. “They” were proven wrong, and Bell Telephone proved people wrong with the advancements made in calling someone long distance…or around the corner. Bell Telephone showed the word they could lead the way.

“They Said It Couldn’t Be Done” – St. Louis Archway (St. Louis, MO) and Mount Washington (Mount Washington, New Hampshire)

Uploaded by Allison Venezio

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Area code 314 – St. Louis, Missouri: As a nice, folksy-type song plays under footage of scenic areas in St. Louis, a narrator speaks of the city’ history. It’s where the blues stayed for good, sports, breweries, cereals, and chemicals come from. But the most endearing (and dizzying) images are that of the St. Louis Arch – the Gateway to the West. You’re a naysayer, and say that “it couldn’t be done,” but there it is, 630 feet of stainless steel. You can ride up one side, and down the other. You oughta see it, Mr. Narrator says. But Bell reminds you to phone ahead to book a hotel room first…as it can get cold in the park.

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Area code 603 – Mt. Washington, New Hampshire: With the same nice, folksy song playing under scenic footage of Mt. Washington, we are treated to a story about the mountain. Mt. Washington is the highest mountain in the eastern United States…and the home of the first cog railway. Back in 1869, when the railroad was first built, those darn naysayers said “it couldn’t be done.” But by golly, it was. Round trip takes about two hours, with the climb getting as steep at 37 degrees. The narrator tells us we oughta try it….but keep in touch with home by phone when we do.

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“They Said It Couldn’t Be Done”: The Cost of Long Distance (And the Advancement of Making a Phone Call)

Uploaded by Allison Venezio

I do remember the days of having to wait until after 7 pm (and I think it was 9 pm on weekdays at some point in my life) to make a long distance call for a lower price. I also recall long distance costing ten cents at one time, which wasn’t all that long ago (if the 1990s wasn’t “all that long ago” for you). And if you wanted to call long distance on the weekend, well, you were in luck, because it was less expensive!

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Yep, 70 cents.

This longer installment of the “They Said It Couldn’t Be Done” commercials discusses the innovations made in phones and phone calls, and how the cost of long distance has come down considerably. And considering that this commercial aired in 1970, it really has come down in price. Today, long distance is no longer something we fear, but rather, are able to do for free, anytime of the day. The commercial talks about the rates on phone calls from New York to San Francisco in 1915, coast-to-coast in 1920, 1927, 1940, 1963, and 1970…on phone calls you dial yourself.

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And naturally, if these rates were what I paid to make a phone call…I’d fear long distance phone calls.

They said it couldn’t be done!

“They” are probably freaking out over the idea of FREE long distance!

Video Source: 1001 Classic Commercials

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Take that…”they!”

Those harsh critics know nothing. Show “they” that Allison is a force to be reckoned with, and follow her blog, Allison’s Written Words, on Facebook.

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Allison L. Venezio

Secretary/Blogger-Writer at Allison's Written Words and Retroist
Allison is a Secretary by day, a writer/blogger by night (and during lunch breaks and in the mornings before work), a nostalgia geek (and a geek in general), worshipper of Thor (and Chris Hemsworth), and honorary Avenger (she has a pin, so it is official).She collects Funko Pops, loves anything that takes her back to childhood, and has confessed her love for Kenny Loggins.Oh, and she listens to Chicago...alot.If any of this piques your interest, she'd love for you to visit her personal blog, Allison's Written Words, where she talks about alot of the same stuff she talks about here, and more!

She can be found at can follow her blog on Facebook (, Instagram @allisonswrittenwords, and on Twitter @AllisonGeeksOut.

(Her fiancee is supportive of the whole Chris Hemsworth and Kenny Loggins love thing.)
Allison L. Venezio
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