Time, Obsolete Discs And Neckties

People continue using whatever devices and conventions they used in the past. They resist change unless something that is obviously better comes along.

I dare dream of a future without wristwatches, when there are no discs containing music, movies or anything else, and no one need ever wear a damned necktie. Dream with me and together we can make that sort of world.

Perhaps it is amazing that I have been in management for over 20 years and only in the past year have I held a job that required wearing a necktie as part of the dress code. Personally, I feel neckties are silly. A tie is an archaic accoutrement. Very likely ties cut off circulation to the brain, which might explain why those who wear them often make stupid decisions that leave others dumbfounded.

It is a formality, a sign of importance. Still, I never needed a necktie in order to emphasize my relative importance in any organization. In Florida, where I live, wearing neckties are just grossly uncomfortable throughout much of the year. In the cooler times of the year, daytime temperatures are usually over 70 degrees F (21 degrees C). Even at night in winter, it is pretty rare for temperatures to dip below 50 (10 degrees C). In summer mid day temperatures top 100 degrees F (38 degrees C).

As a condition of employment, I put up with wearing a tie because I need the job. If you have read my previous posts, you know what kind of year 2007 was for me. Come to think of it, this past Christmas was the first time in my entire life (21 years as a father) that I ever received a necktie as a gift. There was never any practical reason before and so, generally I preferred socks or underwear if, in fact, no one was going to buy me a new car or upgrade my computer as a gift. Neither of those has ever happened yet but still, I hold out some hope.

Today, as I worked in the store where I’m training, a lady came up to me and complimented me on how nice it was so see someone working in a store who was well dressed. It was a strange thing to say. She was an older lady. So maybe she is out of touch with progressive thought. I took it as a compliment, anyway.

I used to think other stores had management dressed in ties to help eliminate the question ‘are you a manager?’ But I still get that one. ‘Do you work here?’ is another favorite. The answer I wish I could say is, ‘No, I love wearing a necktie and this friggin’ nametag. Lovely set, aren’t they?’ Some things never change. It’s because people tend to be always and only just people.

Over the past few days, I was watching the Back To The Future trilogy on DVD. My daughter somehow obtained the collectors item and gave it to me for Christmas. It is one of the best gifts I have ever received. I love those movies.

While watching Part Two, with the commentary turned on, the creators Bob Gale and Bob Zemeckis pointed out that Christopher Lloyd is wearing a clear vinyl necktie when he returns from the future to tell Marty and Jennifer that they need to come back with him to the future. Gale and Zemeckis pointed out that they were trying to make the future as fun and ridiculous as possible. It was mainly because they didn’t want to write about a future that would prove to be completely wrong. So they intended to just have some fun. The clear, almost invisible necktie was one of those things.

Personally, wearing a transparent necktie makes as much sense as wearing a silk one just because of tradition. I tend to think that if it were a fad, people would be doing it, regardless. I sort of wish I had a clear tie just to challenge the need for me to wear a tie – but then, as I have said, I need my job. I can be the radical maverick in some other way.
Also, I noticed again (having noticed it the first time I saw the movie) that there were bails of Laser Discs and CD‘s. In 1990 when the second and third movies were being made, Laser Discs were the latest and greatest medium for high fidelity movies with multi channel sound. When I was in Asia in the 1980’s, I bought a Laser Disc player, which still works. I still have a few movies I bought.

The major hurdle for Laser Disc adoption was not the price of the discs. At the time they were just about the same price as VHS tapes. It was always the size of the disc. It was bigger than an old-school vinyl LP album, much less convenient than a VHS tape. The big selling point for the technology was almost instantaneous random chapter selection. But really, how many people put on a movie to watch one or two chapters?

In the 1980’s, Laser Disc beat out a rival disc technology that RCA developed that enclosed a disc in a dustproof sleeve. When it was inserted into a player, the player actually opened up the dust jacket and played the disc with needle like probes that were deflected as the disc spun over it, producing an electronic signal that could be decoded back into a movie. The playback quality was better than VHS, but only slightly so. Laser Disc was an impressive advancement in visual quality, almost as startling as the apparent difference in dynamic range between a vinyl record and a CD.

What struck me about the Back To The Future vision was CD’s being bailed along with the Laser Discs. I remember thinking, what could ever replace a CD? As a writer and particularly a writer that who with science fiction, it was an excuse for me to analyze, scrutinize, devise, revise and, as a last resort, tell lies.

In the late, great Stanley Kubrick‘s film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange, the future had a very small cassette tape device upon which music was stored. When I first saw the film, I started to consider how everything in technology was about making devices smaller and smaller.

As I got older I understood that not only did people want portability, they also wanted all their techie devices to fit into their pockets, purses or onto their belts. I also considered that someday all the high tech toys would be combined into something that would fit in the palm of a human hand, and therefore fit into any pocket as well. As we know, that has happened with smart phones.

I observed the trend of static computer memory becoming miniaturized yet yielding more and more capacity. Eventually there would be enough memory to store all the information on a number of CD’s that would easily fit into a human’s shirt pocket or purse. I did not dream beyond that. I figured we would be buying memory chips with music on them and feeding them into a playback device.

As MP3 players evolved there were some that did that but largely they never caught on. Things like the iPod skipped right over an evolutionary step to provide the sort of capacity that could hold hundreds and even thousands of songs that were downloaded from the Internet or copied from a computer that ripped them from a CD.

Another trend I notice is the absence of a wristwatch on some arms. It may be why people who aren’t wearing watches ask people who are, ‘Do you know what time it is?’ instead of just asking for the time. They expect the characteristic response, ‘it is…’ followed by the correct time. Me, I glance at my watch if I’m wearing one or alternately check my cell phone and then looking back at the person and say, ‘Yes, I do.’ It’s not something that attempts to politely evade the slight, almost meaningless imposition to request looking at a chronometer of some sort to satisfy them. I do it to force them to ask the correct question, ‘What time is it?’

The alternative smart-ass reply to ‘do you know what time it is?’ is, of course, ‘time for you to buy your own damned watch!’

Personally, I rarely wear a watch anymore. Pocket watches that were popular in the 19th Century have made a technological full circle. I now have one that is also known as my cell phone.

No longer do I worry about scratching my watch’s crystal on something as I pass by, or snagging the watch on something and breaking the wristband. Every time the latter happened, I ended up buying a new watch. The replacement bands for my old watch cost more than a new watch! So, at some point, I ended up discarding the idea of wearing a watch. 

The ‘better mousetrap’ quest continues and will continue forever because we are never completely satisfied with anything. Everything has a period of time in the sun. Function and form matter but sometimes people appreciate things that serve no other purpose but to be absurd, like neckties.

Still, I don’t understand why we can’t come up with a viable alternative to wrapping a strip of cloth around the neck and beneath the collar of a shirt, then putting a knot in it so it stays tied. Why not just devise a sign to wear stating, ‘Yes, I’m important!’ or even ‘VIP’ would work. Everyone will know that the person expects everyone’s attention to whatever said person might say. That would not be humble enough for the clergy, so it should be left to them to come up with their own inoffensive wording of their particular sign.

I think a sign would work very well for educators and businessmen, though. Maybe it wouldn’t work for politicians. They seem to love their ties and since, as far as I can determine, they don’t really use any brain cells in their field of work, maybe we should allow them to continue starving their grey matter of oxygen.

For the rest of us, the goal should be making neckties obsolete, like laser discs. Then we can use the extra blood flow to our brain cells to come up with creative alternatives for wristwatches, CD’s, DVD’s and even Blue Ray discs.


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