Historic Tech Support

Sep 13, 2019
Originally published on September 18, 2019 10:58 am

Ophira and Jonathan play tech support agents troubleshooting problems with old-timey inventions.

Heard on Ilfenesh Hadera: Spike Lee Alum And DJ School Dropout.

Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.


Our next game is about important inventions like that knob thing that you stick on the back of your phone. What did we do before that, hold our entire phone in our hands? Are you kidding me? Let's meet our contestants. First up, Dese’Rae Stage visiting us from Philadelphia.


EISENBERG: You are an artist, photographer and you have a superpower - you can do addition extremely quickly.

DESE'RAE STAGE: I hear that is true, but I don't think it's true.

EISENBERG: What do you mean you hear it is true, but you don't think it's true?

STAGE: My wife is bad at math, but she is convinced that I do math quickly.


STAGE: It's not true.

EISENBERG: You do math at what you consider a reasonable pace.

STAGE: Yeah, I just add.

EISENBERG: You just add.


JONATHAN COULTON, BYLINE: And she just can't do it at all. She's like, oh, my God.

STAGE: She sees addition, and she's like, you.

EISENBERG: Dese’Rae, when you ring in, we'll hear this.


EISENBERG: Your opponent is Rita Mikita. You are from Cleveland, Ohio, and you are a high school science teacher there.


EISENBERG: So in your high school science class, you also present some of the projects to the community.

MIKITA: Yeah. So our school is project-based.


MIKITA: So, like, last year, when I taught about energy, I had them design and engineer bicycles that they turn into generators that could charge cellphones because that's what they care about.

EISENBERG: Right. Rita, when you ring in, we'll hear this.


EISENBERG: Remember, Dese’Rae and Rita, whoever has more points after two games will go to our final round. In this trivia game, Jonathan and I will pretend to be historic tech support agents addressing problems with very old inventions. And you're going to ring in and identify what we are troubleshooting. Here we go.

You should hear all the complaints we get about having to keep this invention outside, but that is the only way the gnomon will cast a shadow and tell you what time it is.



STAGE: Sundial.

EISENBERG: That is correct - sundial.


EISENBERG: At least they automatically turned off at night.


COULTON: That's true. That's true.

EISENBERG: Just kind of a nice thing.

COULTON: It's silent mode all the time.


COULTON: I totally understand your frustration. Just remember, you have to treat your copper plate with silver iodide before exposure or no amount of mercury vapor will set the image.



MIKITA: An old-timey camera.

COULTON: Yeah, we'll allow - we're looking for daguerreotype or photography but...

MIKITA: Of course.

COULTON: ...Yeah, that's great. Yeah.


EISENBERG: I know you're trying to listen to the episode of "My Favorite Murder" 1877, featuring Billy the Kid. Please check if the needle is touching the cylinder. Yes, leaving marks on the wax is normal. That's how it stores your audio.



STAGE: It's the record player, but I can't think of the name of the thingamabob (ph) - the cornucopia business.


EISENBERG: Hey, turns out, we're going to take record player. We're going to take thingamaboob (ph) record player as the answer. We're going to go with that.


EISENBERG: Gramophone would've been all right, record player - yeah. I guess the one with the big bell is what we were talking about.

COULTON: It's called a thingamaboob.

EISENBERG: Yeah, which I - I'm sure everyone, like, lost their keys down that thing, right? Wouldn't you just want to...


COULTON: I'm sure all the toddlers in all the households just dumping every tiny thing...

EISENBERG: Just everything in there.

COULTON: ...Down that bell - carrots, peas.

EISENBERG: I am so sorry you can't finish your tapestry. OK. Are you connected to the lease rods and the heddles? Great. OK. Great. Now, you'll want to make sure your warp shed is maintaining a good tension from your weft.



STAGE: A loom.

EISENBERG: Yeah, that's correct - a loom.


EISENBERG: You know what happens when you don't use a loom?

COULTON: No, what happens?

EISENBERG: It just looms.


COULTON: Best dad joke of the night so far.

EISENBERG: I know. I know. It's a good one.

COULTON: Yeah, I know it looks like a lot of small rocks and sludge right now. Just let it dry, and you'll get a nice, hard slab.


COULTON: Dese’Rae.

STAGE: Cement. No.

COULTON: Can we accept that?

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: We cannot accept that.

COULTON: I'm sorry, we cannot accept cement. Rita, do you know the answer?

MIKITA: Concrete.

COULTON: Yes, that is correct.


COULTON: Cement is an ingredient in concrete. Concrete is a mixture of cement and probably gravel and peas and carrots.


EISENBERG: Choo-choo, may I help you? I'm here to save your caboose. OK. First, put the coal out. Then we're going to look at the piston and boiler and get you in locomotion.



STAGE: Train engine.

EISENBERG: Can you be a little bit more specific? What kind of train engine?

STAGE: I don't know.

EISENBERG: OK. All right, Rita, can you steal?

MIKITA: A steam engine.

EISENBERG: That's what I'm looking for. Yeah, that's all.


EISENBERG: OK. Great game. And it's a tie.


EISENBERG: If your favorite movie is "Quiz Show" and your favorite quiz show is Movie, I hate to break it to you, but there is no quiz show called Movie. Be a contestant on our quiz show. Go to amatickets.org. Coming up, a music parody game about cheese.


EISENBERG: That's right, it's just how I like my men - sharp, jacked and shredded.


EISENBERG: I'm Ophira Eisenberg, and this is ASK ME ANOTHER from NPR.

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