Sunday, January 04, 2009

Bottle Caps & Pull Tabs

We marked the New Year with the consumption of Martinelli's Gold Medal Sparkling Cider, "the non-alcoholic version of our founder's original Champagne Cider," notes the bottle. It also boasts of a history of awards, Sacramento (1890), San Francisco (1894), Atlanta (1895), Buffalo (1901), Seattle (1909) and San Francisco again (1914). It's a fine drink and we all enjoyed it. But why hasn't it won anything since the Kaiser got into that unfortunate dustup?

The bottle has a wrap around its neck, in the champagne style, but a metal cap instead of a cork. A non-twist cap was revealed when you unwrapped the neck. "I can't get it off," Lilly said, baffled as to why it didn't twist.

Opening a bottle with a bottle opener. Who of my generation would have ever thought that that would be a declining skill in the early years of the 21st century? We have a manual can opener with a seldom-used bottle opener appendage, so I gave to her and insisted she learn how to open it. She did. A new skill for the new year. A minor skill, maybe, but minor skills are better than no skills.

Speaking of relics of the past, I saw about 15 minutes of WarGames recently. At some point in the fairly distant past, I'd seen a different 15 minutes or so, making it one of those movies you experience only in short segments. For some movies, that's enough, which is true for WarGames as well. Not that it's bad. But we're asked to believe that, in a world of Apple Lisas and Commodore 64s, a teenager can hack into a NORAD mainframe with ease.

In the scene that I saw, young Matthew Broderick finds himself at a gas station in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific Northwest, in urgent need of making a phone call. This being 1983, he has no cell phone, so he finds a pay phone. But he has no change for a call (at this point, he should have broken into a Coke machine for change, just for the homage value, but no). So he decides to do a bit of phone phreking. And what tool facilitates his free phone calls? He spends a moment or two outside the phone booth, stoops over, and picks up a discarded pull-tab.

The remarkable part isn't gaming the phone system with a removable pull-tab. That's actually believable, whether it was strictly possible or not. Someday I might write about the couple of days I spent at an MIT dormitory in 1982 ("If you get an operator on the line, hang up!").

The remarkable part is the pull-tab itself. Anyone looking for one of those on the ground any more would be pretty much out of luck. They were on their way out even in 1983, but I'm not sure when the transition to tabs that don't come off ("stay tabs," Wiki calls them) was completed in the United States. Even so, when I arrived in Japan in 1990 and found that pull-tabs were still in use, I considered it quaint.

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At 9:53 PM, Anonymous Jay Stribling said...

My Mother-in-Law (of whom I am actually very fond) brought us samples and various small items when she returned from a trip to Brazil about 16 years ago. Among the goodies were two canned Coca-Colas in small (6-oz perhaps?) cans.

After they sat on a shelf as curios for 4 or 5 years we decided, in a fit of exuberance, to drink them. As my son and I opened them, I noticed that they had the original "pull-off" pop tops.


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