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“Childhood Tech Tricks and Tales”



Pre-Listening Question

Before listening to the interview, brainstorm and discuss vocabulary related to technological advancements and societal changes. Think about these words and how they are connected to the topic: “smartphones,” “rotary phones,” “payphone,” “collect call,” “computer,” “social media,” and “kids these days.” Predict how these words might be used in the conversation and what changes they think the speakers will discuss.

Vocabulary and Expressions

Here are some words and expressions that appear in the video:

call collect (verb): make a collect call, where the recipient of the call pays for the charges.
– When I was a child, I used to call my parents collect from a payphone at school to avoid using my own money.

afford (verb): have the financial means or capability to purchase or do something.
– I couldn’t afford the cost of my previous phone plan, so I switched to a new provider.

decline (verb): refuse or reject something.
– We graciously declined the invitation to the party due to a previous commitment that evening.

trick (noun): a clever or deceitful action or strategy used to achieve a specific purpose.
– Aubrey shared a creative trick for avoiding charges when making collect calls from a payphone.

insightful (adjective): Having or showing a deep understanding or perception of something.
The teacher made several insightful comments in the class about the impact of technology on today’s society.

Listening Comprehension Questions

Now, watch the interview and answer the comprehension questions. You can also turn on the automatically-generated captions for the video once you start it.


Randall: In this video, Aubrey and I are gonna talk about how things have changed over the years in terms of family, technology, social media, and so forth. And so, Aubrey, you know, when I look back on my life experiences and again, I don’t think I’m really that old, but I mean, I lived in an age where there were no smartphones, where it was a period of time where you had to use a rotary phone to actually dial. But when you think of your own particular life, how are things just in general, in society, in your own personal life, with technology, with computers? How, how have things changed for you?

Aubrey: Yeah. You mentioned rotary phones. Uh, when I was younger, like cell phones were a thing, but you didn’t have it as a child unless your parents were rich, right? So what you would do at school if you needed to call your parents and you couldn’t get the office phone is you’d go to the payphone and you’d call collect. And when the computer asks you for your name, you say, “Mom, I need a ride.” And then they decline the call. You just hang up. And then nobody gets charged for the call because this was past when a human operator would answer. So you tell the computer that your name is “I need a ride.”

Randall: All right. Well,

Aubrey: Kids these days don’t know that trick.

Randall: Well, thank you for sharing that, uh, one insightful experience from the past.


Collect calls in the US used to work by allowing the caller (the person making the call) to have the charges for the call billed to the recipient (the person receiving the call). 

Avoiding Charges Creatively: As mentioned in the interview excerpt, there was a creative way to avoid charges when making collect calls. When the operator asked for the caller’s name, some individuals would give a specific message, such as “Mom, I need a ride.” Then, as soon as the recipient heard this message and realized who was calling, they would decline the call. Since the charges were typically incurred after the call was accepted, hanging up before the recipient accepted the charges would result in no cost to either party.

Conversation Questions

  1. How do you think advancements in technology have changed family dynamics over the years?
  2. What are some positive and negative aspects of the prevalence of smartphones and social media in today’s society?
  3. Based on the excerpt, how did Aubrey and Randall’s experiences with technology and communication differ from each other?
  4. Can you recall any unusual or creative methods you or others used to make phone calls in the past, similar to Aubrey’s payphone story?
  5. In what ways have you noticed that younger generations have a different relationship with technology compared to older generations?
ChatGPT was used collaboratively to prepare some of the discussion questions for this lesson.
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