Monday, January 9, 2012

The Perpetual Vibrating Bed

Today's post is dedicated to the memory of John Joseph Houghtaling, inventor in 1958 of the "Magic Fingers Vibrating Bed." A quarter brought 15 minutes of "tingling relaxation and ease."

We remember with great fondness the vibrating bed. But unfortunately, most of them have been junked by now. Mostly because the original repairmen, long ago, threw away the schematics in a shortsighted, selfish attempt to guarantee themselves job security. Not foreseeing that they would eventually die and the rest of us wouldn't have any idea how to repair the tricky mechanisms.

Admittedly, a few brave souls, working with only rudimentary electronics knowledge, usually gotten from fly-by-night technical institutes, attempted repairs, but none of it was any good. Beyond that, it became impossible to get parts, and trying to jimmy rig the devices with non-matching parts from soda machines and jukeboxes gave poor results.

But let's say we could somehow get back the original intelligence to make these things work, that would definitely be a blast from the past, and, more importantly, great for the therapeutic value the vibrating bed offered. I'm thinking of something a friend of mine said, that the vibrating bed was the only thing that staved off headaches for him. If he felt a headache coming on, diving into a warm vibrating bed was the only thing that could perk him right up!

As for me, I had an idea for the vibrating bed in a perfect world. Just fantasizing here! Remember, when you put a quarter in you got 15 minutes of "tingling relaxation and ease." That was a great promise, but it also had a downside: 15 minutes isn't very long! If you're like me, you could only enjoy the first seven or eight minutes. Because you knew it was about to run out, then you'd have to interrupt your relaxation and ease to put another quarter in.

My idea is why not have a method of automatically replenishing the quarters! And I'm not saying you wouldn't have to pay for the extra service. You'd be glad to pay for it if you could only be spared having to roll over and put another quarter in. So here's the idea: You have a way of loading a disc, almost like in a laundromat, with multiple quarters, which then would rotate and deposit the next quarter as needed. What a great convenience that'd be!

But how to pay for the extra service? What I would propose seems natural to me, in fact the only fair method. The only thing I'm bogged down on is how to pay for the final service of moving the pennies. But bear with me, I have an idea...

I'm proposing a hierarchical arrangement of coins to pay for the services. First, you've got the rotating disc of quarters at the bed that would take, say, 12 quarters. At 15 minutes apiece, that's three hours of uninterrupted vibrating, a godsend! But to actually rotate the quarters, you'd have a disc above it that is loaded with dimes. So that'd be 12 dimes. Then to pay for the dime disc, you'd have a disc above it loaded with nickels. 12 nickels. And to pay for the nickel disc, another disc with 12 pennies. How you pay for the penny disc is the biggest drawback, which I can't entirely resolve at this time. It might have to be that the nickels be somehow adequate compensation for the nickel disc as well as the penny disc.

The key thing is that original 15 minutes, great but inadequate, has been wonderfully extended to three glorious hours! Meaning, except for the need to replenish all the coin discs at the end of three hours, we'd have a virtually perpetual vibrating bed!

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