I think the first time I used a phone card was in 1985 when I was in Japan. Along with a group of colleagues from the National Productivity Board, I had been sent to Japan for three-and-a-half months of training. It was called the PDP (Productivity Development Project) Fellowship Programme and we were housed at the newly completed Tokyo International Centre.
We bought phone cards with which to call home. I remember the difficult time we had using the two public phones in the centre. To save on the cost of our trunk calls, we used to make our calls after 11 pm at night which would be midnight Singapore time. And there would usually be a long queue of other residents who wanted to use the public phones. Sometimes I just gave up and paid the extra cost of calling from my room. Most times I just write. No emails or Skype in those days. It was an interesting stay in Japan, but I think I shall blog about it to another time.
This is a photo my room at the Tokyo International Centre in Nishihara. Notice the phone on my table? I wonder if my ever sharp-eyed friend Victor noticed something else interesting thing in this photo?
My …. how much the world has changed since then. Earlier this year my daughter was in Sweden for 6 months on an exchange programme. Most nights we would chat online for free. One Sunday night, we even had family worship ‘together’; singing hymns and taking turns to read verses from the bible. She even created a blog to share her stories and photos.
The other times when I used the phone card a lot was when I was traveling in Malaysia. In the early 90’s, I used to travel to Kuching and Bintulu quite frequently for my training and consultancy assignments. I also had clients in Peninsula Malaysia and that brought me to various towns like Malacca, Kirteh, Kuantan, Port Dickson and even Ipoh. But the one I hated most was Kuala Lumpur because of their notorious traffic.
Using the public phones in Malaysia was quite a hassle because they had two telephone companies - Uniphone and Telekom Malaysia. Uniphone was popular in Sarawak and you can recognize them by the yellow colour booths. However, over in Peninsula, it was very difficult to find these yellow booths. Instead, you see the blue colour Telekom Malaysia booths everywhere.
Hence I had to keep two different phone cards. And I still have one of them with me today.