‘Tomorrow’s World’ and the Sound of Honey

Tomorrow's World

Anybody remember Tomorrow’s World? For those of us of a certain vintage, it was a must watch at the time (I say certain vintage because I have just discovered that Judith Hann is 77 years old – where has my life gone?) Anyway, amongst the many glimpses into the future that we shared (along with peeks at the ‘clearly not going to be part of any kind of viable future in this or any other universe’) was the CD player. I remember it as if it were yesterday (this, in contrast to what actually was yesterday, which I recall barely at all). They coated a CD with honey, placed it in the player and presto! it played perfectly – unaffected. I was deeply impressed. The crackles and pops associated with vinyl have always driven me up the wall and so, as soon as cd players started to be mass-produced in such a volume that they began to drop into my price bracket, I bought one. I can still remember my first CD – in fact I am playing it as I write – it was Tango In The Night by Fleetwood Mac. (I did not join the multitudes making Dire Strait’s Brothers In Arms my first CD, partly because I already had it on vinyl and partly because no amount of sound enhancement – the claim at the time – would disguise the fact that Walk Of Life was so bloody awful).

Anyway, time has passed and Tango… is now one of hundreds of CD’s in my possession, but each time I play any one of them the memory of that demonstration preys on my mind. The first thing that bothers me is the honey. Why honey? Why not jam, or marmalade or even Marmite? Why not engine oil or washing-up liquid? Something to do, I presume, with viscosity. That, once spread upon the disc, it would stay there for a while and not drip down onto Judith’s blouse.  But, you see, I know how fast CD’s spin when they’re in the player and I do understand a little about centrifugal force: if you put ‘a’ on the middle of ‘b’ and spin ‘b’ around fast enough, ‘a’ will fly off the edge. (Try it with a playground roundabout and a five-year old child.) Given that this was the case then, although the CD played perfectly, doubtless the honey-gummed CD player never worked again and, given that this was (then) a futuristic piece of kit, what did the inventor/manufacturer say when they were handed back their solid-state ‘baby’ dripping in bee-juice? What did the programme makers say? ‘Thanks for the loan of your equipment, it worked perfectly – but it will never work again. Oh well, back to vinyl eh?’ A pretty certain way of ensuring that they never got new stuff to demonstrate again (and probably why so many of Tomorrow’s World’s subsequent demonstrations failed so dramatically).

And the second thing that bothers me? Well, it bothers me now as I write this piece. If thirty years ago a CD would play perfectly well when covered in honey, why do my CD’s today skip and bounce around like a five-year old on orange Smarties at the merest suggestion of a greasy thumb print or a speck of dust? Could it be that Tomorrow’s World isn’t quite what it was once cracked up to be?

Turn off your mind relax and float down stream
It is not dying, it is not dying                                                                                              Tomorrow Never Knows (John Lennon / Paul McCartney)