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Random Thoughts

Keyed Up

Hudson Cooper
Posted 7/16/21

So far, this summer has been a mixture of intense heat interrupted by torrential thunderstorms. Driven inside by the weather you can use the time to assess your umbrella collection and clean the …

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Random Thoughts

Keyed Up

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So far, this summer has been a mixture of intense heat interrupted by torrential thunderstorms. Driven inside by the weather you can use the time to assess your umbrella collection and clean the filters in your air conditioning units.

When those chores are completed, it might be a good time to examine another item each of us has in our household. It is probably located on a hook or shelf near the entrance to your home. Take a minute to examine your key ring.

Key rings are the portable equivalent of the junk drawer. Like the junk drawer that most of us have in our house, the key ring starts out containing only a minimal number of necessary items. Most often they initially just contain the keys to your house and car.

As the years progress the ring fills up with assorted items like plastic store cards, good luck charms and metal discs that say, “I’ve been to Mount Rushmore.” I think it is nice to have a collection of memories. But shouldn’t they be on a knick knack shelf and eventually in the junk drawer instead of crammed on your key ring?

Tired of reaching into his pocket and fishing out a bunch of keys, Samuel Harrison invented the key ring in the 19th century. The ring is a double loop of metal that you pry open to attach a key. It is not as easy as it looks.

It requires a certain dexterity to pry the loop open, hold it in place and then slide the small circular opening in the key until the loop can close. For those of us who identify more with Felix Unger than Oscar Madison it takes planning to assure that the business end on the keys all face in the same direction. It is an “odd couple” of moments before you figure out which way the key’s business end goes on the ring.

The business end of the key is the jagged area comprised of the tip, projections, also known as cuts, and the shoulder which not surprisingly is next to the head. Those parts of the jagged area are what a key maker must finely grind out to make a duplicate of the key.

Duplication of keys has been fined tuned and even recently computerized. Years ago, a clerk at the hardware store would put your key in a vise that had a rod attached to another vise that held a blank key.

Turning the machine on, as one end of the rod moved up and down the cuts of the first key, the other rod would make a copy. The result was a duplicate key that closely resembled the first one. I used the word “closely” because often, the new key did not fit nor open the lock. A trip back to the hardware store was necessary to fine tune the cuts.

Take a minute now to do a situation assessment of your key ring. How many items on it do you still use or can even identify? Many of those plastic cards nestled among the metal keys are from outdated store promotions or businesses that have long ago closed.

You might want to disconnect and toss out that Tower Record card. It is probably safe to eliminate that Blockbuster video card unless you happen to live in Bend, Oregon the site of the last remaining store in the United States.

Modern technology may soon make traditional keys and key rings obsolete. Many cars have switched to fobs or keyless entry adaptations. Developers are beginning to use wifi and smart phones to open door locks by simply entering a password on your home screen.

It is also only a matter of time before a retina scan will replace the key. Technology may soon make carrying your key ring disappear in the blink of an eye.

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