What do floppy disks and voice mail have in common?

voicemailwoes_fullsize_story1They’ve both been around forever and neither one ever improved.

The 3½-inch HD floppy disk had 1.44 MB (okay, 2.0 MB unformatted, but no one cares) of memory. It never grew. It never changed. It never got bigger. The floppy just chugged along, continuing to exist, awaiting its obsolescence.

How like voice mail. I was reading an article on the subject (“You’ve Got Voice Mail, but Do You Care?“) in the NY Times and it got me thinking: When will voice mail, once and for all, evolve or die?

Please do not leave a message

I got my first answering machine in the 1980s. It recorded messages on a cassette.
People left long, rambling messages that never seemed to get to the point, and would often forget to leave their number. This was before caller ID, lest we forget.

Today, I work in an office with a fancy voicemail system. I can forward, share, annotate, and archive messages. I can listen to voicemail in my inbox. Like my inbox wasn’t hellish enough already.

Now, people leave long, rambling messages that never seem to get to the point, and often forget to leave their number.

What progress.

Personally, I do not leave messages anymore unless a) I need to “log” or prove that I attempted to contact you or b) you are my doctor and this is the only way to beg for an appointment.

If I am calling someone, it’s because I need to talk to the person. I wanted a quick answer, to confirm a piece of information or to ask an opinion. With caller ID, even if I do not leave a message, you know I called. Why should I waste our time leaving a message to say call me back? By the time you get around to checking your messages, I will probably be home in my jammies.

If I don’t get you live, I will send an email or a text. If it is urgent and we work together, I might do something radical like get up from my chair and go to see you.

And what’s with people’s welcome messages? “Hi, this is so-and-so from whatever company, I am either on another line or have stepped away from my desk, blah, blah, blah…” Is this not the pinnacle of stating the obvious?

And then, there’s the robot-lady voice with the grocery list of “other options”. Sometimes I am jumping out of my skin waiting for the prehistoric beep. I only need two options: leave a message (god forbid) or MAYBE get me the operator so I can find someone who is actually there.

According to NPR, Millennials hate voicemail. Once again, Gen X got there first, and Millennials get credited with the change.

 

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