Saturday, June 12, 2010

Don't touch that dial

kw: observations, history, cliches

BMUS-THILH. It used to be fun to say, "Beam me up, Scotty; there's no intelligent life here," or just the first four words; the rest were understood. I haven't heard it in years, though the more sardonic BMUS-FTP lasted a while longer, mainly as a T-shirt slogan.

Come to think of it, T-shirt slogans aren't that pithy any more. A great many are almost short stories printed on cloth, and if the wearer is a bit too curvaceous, you'll never get to read all of it anyway. One of the shorter ones is at least witty:
I want to be like Gandhi and Martin Luther King and John Lennon, but I want to stay alive.
But back to sayings…

The inexorable progress of technology has made a bunch of things we used to say totally incomprehensible to today's youngsters. If you're under 40, you have no memory of any moon landing, nor of our pullout from Vietnam, nor of the resignation of a President.

How much longer will the icon of an idea be a light bulb? And how about this post's title: How long has it been since the last TV was made with a channel-changing dial, or two dials even, one for channels 2-13, and one for 14-69? Now we just push the up and down buttons, or poke the keypad on the remote, except when its batteries die just before the Super Bowl. Oh, yeah; a bit over forty years ago there was no Super Bowl. It started in 1967.

More than half the people alive would never say, "You sound like a broken record." Vinyl phonograph records would skip when scratched, or repeat, repeat, repeat… But a scratched CD probably works just fine, or at worst it makes a loud POP and keeps going. And you can often polish the CD and make it work better. There was no rescuing a scratched Vinyl record! Vagrant thought: CD sales are reducing as more and more people just suck albums off the Web into their IPods.

"Give me a ring" has given way to "Give me a jingle" and now to "Text me." Funny thing, though, Soap Operas are still called Soap Operas (except the ones called Telenovelas), even though their advertisers are no longer selling laundry soap. They're selling knee replacement surgery, asthma medicines, and Viagra.

The phrase "Let's get cranking" almost predates me. It refers to autos that had no starter motor. I have an ancestor (actually a great-uncle) who forgot to put the car out of gear to start it with the crank, and was run over. Luckily, a Model A didn't weigh much; he just broke a leg. Not that many years later, my father's first auto was a Model A, but the brand was getting old already by then. It was kind of like having a VW "old bug" today. You don't see many.

You also don't see many of the old E tickets, outside a museum. I went with my family to Disneyland the year it opened, and for its first several years, you bought packets of tickets of different values. There were plenty of A, B, and C tickets for the less thrilling rides, like the Submarine or Teacups. There were usually only two D and two E tickets in the packets we could afford. We could take half an hour deciding which two E rides to go on. Today an E-ticket gets you a boarding pass at the airport. Now, that's a lot more expensive ride than anything Disney had to offer, and a lot less thrilling (I love a nice, boring airplane ride!). Until Scotty arrives with his Transporter, airplanes are still the fastest way to get away.

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