RANGE: Shimmering across the skies. Singing down the wires. Bouncing off satellites. Beneath the seas, where the weed-draped cables drift. Binding the global village in a seamless silver web. Flashing through microcircuits to light up the switchboards of industry like impossible Christmas trees. But most of all, IN YOUR EAR!
HABITS: It is the deepest, darkest desire of these glittering, ringing, humming, and flickering spirits to imbue every piece of hardware with a personality and to reduce humankind to the condition of machines. When your voice has been converted to a droning code of impersonal beeps and your refrigerator talks back to you, there is much merriment along the Tinkers’ Bell System. How they click and twinkle with wicked glee to see a human standing at a pay phone in the pouring rain, calling for the weather! How it makes them glitter and buzz for joy to behold humans dialing a joke, a date, a steak, a prayer, while a burnt-out terminal case with a headset somewhere squats over a black box full of buttons with the Apocalypse on HOLD! Their most cunning technological doomsday device is the increasingly ubiquitous Telephone Answering Machine which, in a state of prerecordercall-orwarding-impulse-activated direct-distance-connection with another Answering Machine, delightfully prefigures the future of all human intercourse.
HISTORY: From the moment the first, coquettish Tinkerbelle whispered, “Come here, I need you” into Mr. Watson’s ear, these minuscule menaces have been laboring toward their goal—every man, woman and child hooked up, plugged in, and switched on, along an instantaneous globe-encompassing communications network—and not a soul among them with anything to say! Tinkerbelles are now active in every country in the world. Many nations can be reached by one of their favorite innovations: direct dialing. If you can remember a thirty-nine-digit number sequence, you can greatly simplify international communications (you must remember that a sound like a monkey’s death cry is a French busy signal and a deep fat fryer noise means a phone is ringing in Portugal).
SPOTTER’S TIPS: Ominous click-ings on the line. Ringing that starts when your key hits the lock and stops the moment you complete your breathless obstacle course run to the receiver. Heavy breathers. Threats and obscenities on your answering machine from long dead enemies. The refusal to accept collect calls by your nearest and dearest. All these are signals that the Tinkers’ Bell System has your number.