The Laughline
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The Watch

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Jack is struggling through a bus station with two huge and obviously heavy suitcases, when a stranger walks up to him and asks “Have you got the time?”

Jack sighs, puts down the suitcases and glances at his wrist.

“It’s a quarter to six,” he says.

“Hey, that’s a pretty fancy watch!” exclaims the stranger.

Jack brightens a little at the stranger’s interest in his new piece of technology.

“Yeah, it’s not bad”, he says to the stranger, “check this out”.

Jack shows the stranger a time zone display, not just for every time zone in the world, but for the 86 largest metropoli.

He hits a few buttons, and from somewhere on the watch a voice says “the time is five forty nine” in a very West Texas accent.

A few more buttons, and the same voice says something in Japanese.

Jack continues “I’ve put in regional accents for each city”.

Well, the display on the watch is unbelievably high quality and the voice is simply astounding. The stranger is struck dumb with admiration and watch envy.

“If you think that’s good” says Jack to the fascinated stranger, “that’s not all”.

He pushes a few more buttons, and a tiny but very hi-resolution map of New York City appears on the display.

“The flashing dot shows our location by satellite positioning,” explains Jack.

“View recede ten,” Jack says, and the display changes to show eastern New York state.

“I want to buy this watch!” says the stranger.

“Oh, no, it’s not ready for sale yet; I’m still working out the bugs,” says Jack, “I’m the inventor, and it’s not quite ready for general sale”.

“But look at this,” Jack says, and he proceeds to demonstrate that the watch is also a very creditable little FM radio receiver with a digital tuner, a sonar device that can measure distances up to 125 meters, a pager with thermal paper printout and, most impressive of all, the capacity for voice recordings of up to 300 standard-size books,” though I only have 32 of my favorites in there so far” says Jack.

“I’ve got to have this watch!” says the stranger.

“No, you don’t understand; it’s not ready.”

“I’ll give you $1,000 for it!”

“Oh, no, I’ve already spent more than…..”

“Ok I’ll give you $5,000 for it!”

“But it’s just not…..”

“Final offer, I’ll give you $15,000 for it!”, and the stranger pulls out a checkbook.

Jack stops to think.

He has only put about $8,500 into materials and development, and with $15,000 he can make another one and have it ready for merchandising in only six months.

The stranger frantically finishes writing the check and waves it in front of him.

“Here it is, ready to hand to you right here and now. $15,000. Take it or leave it.”

Jack abruptly makes his decision. “OK,” he says, and he peels off the watch and hands it to the stranger.

They make the exchange and the stranger starts happily away.

“Hey, wait a minute,” calls Jack after the stranger, who turns around warily.

Jack points to the two suitcases that he had been trying to wrestle through the bus station.”Don’t forget your batteries.”

Funny isn’t it, that when this joke was written, which must be well over 12 years ago, and probably 20 or more years ago, the concept of a watch (or even a phone) that could do all of this and more was just science fantasy. Now of course it’s a reality, although many of us still struggle with battery life, and probably always will.

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