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Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Anachronism

n.    (Schwa -nAbreve kPrime rSchwa_1 -nIbreve zLprime Schwa_2 m)

1. An artifact that belongs to another time*.

Back when I used to wear ties to work (is anyone still wondering why I wanted to move here), one of my favorites was a deep blue silk tie with a bright yellow object repeated as a pattern throughout.  The tie itself wasn't anything special to look at... but the reactions it inspired were priceless.

The yellow objects on the tie looked like this:

R45a

Now those of you older than thirty five or forty are nodding your heads and saying, "I know what that is!"  The rest of you are pretty much lost. 

Right so far?

I had purchased the tie at a shop in Grand Central Station because I liked the colors.  But when I got it home my wife gave me a new reason to love it.  She took one look at my new piece of neck-wear and asked, "Why did you buy a tie with the symbol for radioactivity on it?"

Right then and there it occurred to me that she and I were from opposite sides of a generational divide that could be defined by whether or not one could identify the inspiration for this silly tie. 

For the sake of accuracy, once I told her what it was, Zahava insisted that she recognized it all along... but that is something of which I'm still a bit, um, skeptical.

From that point on, whenever I wore the tie I would go out of my way to ask people if they could identity the object depicted on my tie.  Almost without exception people who were under 35 gave answers like 'a swastika', 'a radiation symbol' or my all-time favorite; 'the insignia that Star Fleet officers wore on Star Trek'.

Of course, those of us born before or during the Kennedy administration recognize this yellow object is the little plastic thing-a-ma-jig one used in order to play a 45rpm records on a home phonograph.  If you had a lot of 45s you likely had a big plastic thing a bit thicker than an iPod Mini that fit over the thin metal spindle at the center of the phonograph.  This allowed you to stack up a bunch of 45s and have them drop/play one after the other.  But nearly every household had at least a handful of these , um 'things'.

In fact, unless I'm mistaken, I think I once had a little gun that would shoot these things across a room!  I call them things because I still don't know if they ever had an official name.  I've heard them called 'spiders' and '45 adapters'... but if they had an official name it never caught on.

For those of you who have no meaningful memories before the Carter administration, the reason 45rpm records (also sometimes called 'singles') had a large hole in the center instead of a little one the size of a phonograph's spindle is that they were designed to fit on the big changer arm inside a juke box.

OK...  just stop it!  Your blank stares are just freaking me out!!!

Suffice it to say that this 'thing' is now a small badge of honor that we 'boomers' can wear with pride on our ties... or on our lapels... to remind us that many of the ubiquitous objects we once took for granted are fast becoming anachronisms. 

* one of several definitions for the word 'anachronism' found at WordNet ® 2.0, © 2003 Princeton University

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Posted by David Bogner on April 13, 2005 | Permalink

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In my office I have a stack of 80s punk/new wave 45s and one of them has that thingy. I would be distraught to lose it.

I recall standing in Memco in the early 70s (a Walmart kind of store) with my family playing with a calculator going "Ooooooooo!" I don't think it could do more than +\-, multiply and divide. And it was like a 100 bucks.

Posted by: alice | Apr 13, 2005 3:11:29 PM

I had this same feeling about a sculpture I saw at the National Gallery in Washington DC. How long before people don't even know what this object is?

Posted by: Lisa | Apr 13, 2005 3:55:17 PM

uh, yeah...

Posted by: Essie | Apr 13, 2005 4:44:10 PM

I have a bunch of those little doohickeys floating around with my 45s. We used to love playing with the speeds on the record player, 33, 45, 78, it just didn't matter as long as the voice was altered. It was hours of good fun.

Posted by: Jack | Apr 13, 2005 6:08:14 PM

More stuff that will go the same route in a generation: all forms of analog recording (film, cameras, video tape), eyeglasses (except for kids), dentures.

Maybe Yonah will have a cool retro tie with dentures on it...

Posted by: Doctor Bean | Apr 13, 2005 6:15:11 PM

what is so funny about this - is I thought of that ...but then dismissed it and kept reading on to see what it really was.
i thought of it so readily, because in our stereo cabinent there was a little finish nail with one of these hanging on it -- ready to use.
When it was missing - there would always be a big todo trying to find it.
(altho we only had one... I think!)

Posted by: lisa | Apr 13, 2005 7:06:12 PM

Ok, I'm prefacing this by saying that I'm not trying to be a troublemaker - it's all in the name of the search for truth.

Now I've never seen these things you refer to - I guess due to my age. But I love a "hunt" for things on the internet. (David - you might have noticed me doing this now and again on our local email list.) So you said "if they had an official name" - and I read "search on Google for the official name!"

I started by doing a Google Image search for "45 adapters". I came up with a picture on this page:

http://www.thejukeyard.com/vintage_audio.htm

and when I read the label, it said "record inserts". Bingo! That sounds official enough to me.

So I do a web Google search for "record inserts", and the first page that comes up is:

http://www.the2buds.com/surc45in.htm

Now that picture looks very familiar! When I looked at its properties, I see the name of the image file is: "R45A.jpg"

And "coincidentaly" that is the same name as the picture you used!

Using the same picture is fine. You had to get a picture somewhere. But on that page it clearly calls them "record inserts". And if you got there as I did from Google, you see there are 1,380 pages with that term.

So I guess the question is, did you really not know the official name? Or perhaps this is a much more serious game than I thought. Maybe you're sending me off on a quest. Maybe it's kind of like the end of the Willy Wonka movie. Maybe I just need to go bed...

Posted by: Dave | Apr 13, 2005 8:23:10 PM

Dave,

Seeing that little thingy really brought me back. While I did have one of those red thingies to fit over the spindle of the record player for playing stacks of 45's, the little yellow dealie was a household essential.

One summer, when we were at our bunaglow in the Catskills (and do they really have bungalow colonies anymore?) I was sent to my room for punishment. Everyone left for a while and I spent the better part of the afternoon playing and replaying my 45 of Georgie Girl and learning every single word to that song.

That is what immediately popped into my head the minute I saw the photo in your entry.

Posted by: beth | Apr 13, 2005 9:04:33 PM

Alice... You must be a holdover from the past because by the 80s even 8-tracks were becoming passe! How cool that you still used 45s!

Lisa... I actually still have one of those things somewhere (doesn't everybody?)

Essie... I can feel your blank stare from here. :-)

Jack... so many things starting to become clear to me about you now. :-)

Doctor Bean... I'm hoping that he will wear a tie on one occasion in his life: His wedding day. I don't care if it has food on it!

Lisa... You and I are 'of an age', as they say. I'm not surprised you got it right away.

Dave... I actually found that image by doing a google search for '45 rpm yellow plastic'. I wasn't trying to send you on a quest... but if that what blows your skirt up... why not? :-) Yes I saw it called record insert'. But I aso saw it called 'spider', 'spindle adapter', 45 disk' and many other things. More importantly, nobody I know could agree on what it was called... which is a pretty good indicator that no one name ever caught on.

Beth... I had a 45 of 'Dizzy' by Tommy Roe that I spent a similar afternoon committing to memory. I also can't think about these little plastic things without also picturing the two pennies that I had to tape to the record player arm to add enough weight to keep it from skipping.

Posted by: David | Apr 13, 2005 9:16:43 PM

I was in the post 8-track, pre cd era. Who wants to buy cassettes? Records were it until the late 80s, right? Plus if you are buying weird music, then one might not want to commit to an entire album- that or the band might not even have enough songs for one. : )

Posted by: alice | Apr 14, 2005 12:48:16 AM

Without records we never would have known that Paul is dead and that Led Zeppelin worships the devil. ;)

Posted by: Jack | Apr 14, 2005 1:07:48 AM

You have impeccable timing. This morning I saw a nine year old girl( as a PATIENT..) and when I was finished with the procedure I asked her how she felt and she responded with an emphatic "Thumb UP.." When I said that she reminded me of the FONZ.. she just gave me that cold dark stare that most of the women I dated gave me... as in.. " what are you talking about?"
Suddenly what was left of my hair fell out and I made an appointment to be fitted for orthopedic shoes...

Posted by: shabtai | Apr 14, 2005 2:13:08 AM

Wow, it sure has been a long time! My mom gave me and my brother a stack of 45s that belonged to her late brother. We had hours of fun listening to them. Our particular favorite was Harry Belafonte. There is a sad postscript to this story (not as sad though, as my mom having a late brother). Some years later we took the record player to be fixed and it was mysteriously "lost." Then, we held a garage sale in which we sold the 45s. The look on the face of the man who purchased them (for a quarter apiece) has forever convinced me that they were highly collectible and we made a huge mistake. It is amazing that the sight of that little plastic thingy brought back a flood of those memories. Thanks!

Posted by: ball-and-chain | Apr 14, 2005 2:18:23 AM

Ah yes, I remember those well. And fondly. I actually still have a little red thick slightly conical shaped adapter. Why? Because I still have LPs and 45s and a working turntable that I've had since I was 18 years old. The year? 1984. My first big purchase was a $100 stereo system. The radio tuner quit working about 10 years ago and my cats have chewed through the speaker wires several times, but I've managed to get those ancient speakers working every time.

Where's my damn walker?

Posted by: Carol | Apr 14, 2005 3:08:54 AM

I must admit that I didn't recognize it at first but when you revealed what it was the childhood memories came back. The first post on my blog also deals with old time technology.

Posted by: Cosmic X | Apr 14, 2005 10:51:52 AM

Alice... Good points all... although weirdness is in the ear of the listener. :-)

Jack... That kind of intrigue was neat... but I really miss the whole ritual of cleaning the records... and the warm hiss/pop of a well-loved album.

Shabbtai... I feel that way when I put on a Beatle's album in the car and a soldier asks who it is.

Ball and Chain... I feel you loss. I don't know too many people my age who didn't also let a potential fortune in records slip away at yard and garage sales. I still have some of my old records laying around (ones that were never re-released on CD), but I don't have a phonograph anymore. I guess I need to borrow one and transfer all of my remaining vinyl to CDs.

Carol... You are much too young to have a record player! Is this some retro thing you got interested in after reading about the old technology in a history class? ;-)

Cosmic X... Funny how a little plastic disk can dredge up so much baggage. That's why I felt compelled to write about it.

Posted by: David | Apr 14, 2005 12:06:06 PM

As soon as I get home, I'm going to search in the garage for my little 45 carrying case... yes I still have it.. with 50 or so vinyl disks (VD's?) Some of them are bound to have the spindle spiders.....

Posted by: oceanguy | Apr 14, 2005 3:32:23 PM

ball-and-chain: if it makes you feel any better, records are generally not particularly valuable as collectibles, unless they're in absolutely pristine condition (i.e. NEVER played), with perfect covers.

David: Funny you mentioned the gun... I first thought of this when I saw the picture.

Ah, 45s... I remember listening to record versions of Little Golden books as a young 'un; wonder if any of those are still around?

Posted by: efrex | Apr 14, 2005 3:32:57 PM

Oceanguy... If you find a bunch maybe you'd send me one? :-)

Efrex... That's the gun... I must have combined the little disks that come with the gun and the 45 adapters in my faulty memory. Looking at them now I see that they are nothing alike!

Posted by: David | Apr 14, 2005 3:42:05 PM

David, hon, bless you. Were you not already married, I would ask you to be my husband. In less than a week and a half I will be 39 years old. Hardly too young to remember and enjoy record players.

Heck, my father used to put together those console stereo units when I was growing up. You know, those big long wooden deals with the TV in the middle, the turntable on one side of the TV and the radio on the other side, both under doors that opened in the top? The original entertainment units. How many people remember those things, I wonder?

I was dragged kicking and screaming into the digital age. I didn't even get my first CD player until 1995. And that was only because I received some free CDs from work that I wanted to give as a birthday present to my then boyfriend (with whom I was living) and we needed something to play them on. So I bought a Discman for him that could plug into his stereo system.

Now, of course, I adore CDs. However, I am not so loathe to eventually getting an iPod. As soon as I can justify buying one to myself, I am so there, baby. And no iShuffle, either. They're cute and all, but I like to be able to immediately find a song to fit my mood and iShuffles don't allow that.

Posted by: Carol | Apr 14, 2005 3:47:42 PM

Very cool blog.. first time visitor.
Not suprising though being that you are a Mensa
member ( if I remember correctly). Sing any a capella recently with that tie?

Posted by: Shloimy | Apr 14, 2005 9:06:35 PM

Carol... The iPod is a wonderful thing. I rarely touch my CDs anymore.

Shloimy... Welcome! I'm happy you stopped by. Yes, my Mensa membership and $5 still gets me a quadruple Vente Breve Latte at $tarbuck$. :-) And... most of the singing I do these days is at the Shabbat table.

Posted by: David | Apr 14, 2005 9:34:08 PM

In our house, that thingamajiggie was a 45 adapter. How appropriate. :)

And will everyone here who remembers *being* the remote control for their family's 4- or 5-channel, black and white TV, please raise their hand! one......two.......anyone else?

Posted by: jennifer | Apr 14, 2005 11:55:41 PM

I'm not quite yet 33 (thats years not rpm) and I knew what that thing was right away... maybe were just behind the times in Canada a little.

Posted by: Dave B | Apr 15, 2005 6:50:54 AM

Ok, it is getting late here and there are no Photo Friday Pix. Hmm....

Posted by: Jack | Apr 15, 2005 10:09:37 AM

Jennifer... How about the fact that our kids call the remote a 'clicker'. I remember when they actually made a clicking sound! :-)

Davidb... I'd make a crack about Canada and how 1950's everythng is up there, but I've already pissed off a Canadian blogger with one of my posts. Suffice it to say that I'm not surprised you know about these littel plastic adapters. Regards to Joshua and the rest of the family.

Jack... Let me guess; Doctor Bean came over to dose your pitcher of tang and asked to use your internet connection to check if Photo Friday was up, right?

Posted by: David | Apr 15, 2005 3:05:48 PM

Jennifer, though our TV wasn't black and white... *raises hand* Then again, maybe we were just always losing the remotes. I'm not really sure...

But I certainly remember only five channels - one for each of the networks, one for PBS and, if we were really lucky, one independent station.

Posted by: Carol | Apr 16, 2005 10:38:18 AM

David,
I had an Orange one of those thingies. It went on my brown Fisher Price record player so I could play the little records!
Chag Kasher V'Sameach!
Faye

Posted by: Faye | Apr 17, 2005 8:22:35 PM

You think 45's mark you as a fossil? How about 78's? How about a person in Tel Aviv who shall be nameless (but she does blog and comment on other people's blogs), who listens to music on her acoustic speakers that were bought in 1965? And can't bear to throw out the diskettes for MS Word 1.0 (for DOS)?

Posted by: savtadotty | Apr 17, 2005 8:31:56 PM

Faye... Right back atcha!

Savta Dotty... OK, you win. We had 78s in the basement, but I don't remember ever listening to them. However, we did have lots of fun playing 33s and 45s at 78 RPM! :-)

Posted by: David | Apr 18, 2005 10:01:25 AM

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