1. </old geezers voice> … back in my day we used calculators to tell our friends to go to 7734 heheheh </old geezers voice>

  2. I think it can be one of hundreds of words (if you’re a Scrabble player). In the old days, Each character assembly was made out of 7 segments (and maybe 1 period), each of which could burn out independently of the other 6. I’m not sure about microwave ovens but many devices back then would show all 8s after a power failure, and sometimes blink as well. Otherwise, one can imagine the words that can be made out the lit elements of a 4-digit 12-hour clock.

    In my experience, as late as the 1980s (if not the 2020s), I’ve been in homes with microwaves where the panel was unreadable but the microwave still worked. (Actually, my favorite microwave from then suffered the column-of-digit-buttons-failure, meaning you had to think hard to use the remaining buttons to get a usable time interval and power level)

    I don’t remember whether LCD segments could burn out, probably because I could barely read them when they were working. ( Ha! ..still a problem with old gear in the lab. :~) )

  3. I have nothing useful to add, but . . . Mrs. Webster and I still have our first GE microwave from the flippin’ 80s. Still fully functional. I am in awe of that thing!

  4. Didn’t we have a very similar one a couple months back? I think it’s pretty clear with this one that there isn’t a single secret message that the cartoonist intended and that we could in principle figure out, or figure-plus-guess.
    (That’s not to say “Stop making suggestions” of course. The fun is in the suggestions. But nobody is going to be declared right.)

  5. Way back in 1978, a historic blizzard hit Boston (the “Blizzard of ’78”.) Among the casualties of the blizzard were a few of the letters in the electric sign of the Essex Hotel near South Station. For a few nights the sign said “SEX HOT”.

    Later, probably by coincidence, this became a joke in the movie Revenge Of The Nerds 2: Nerds In Paradise. The hotel in the movie is the HOTEL CORAL ESSEX. You can figure out the rest.

  6. MiB: In 1968, in Big Spring, TX, the building-top “HOTEL” sign usually had one of its five letters out. Which light depended on which girl was working that night, or so I was told.

  7. There is a play called “The Hot l Baltimore” with the title of course based on a letter being missing from a sign.

    One of the Miami bus routes (from the old Coral Gables bus station) was “Biltmore Hospital”. I remember one year there had been a misprint on the physical scroll signs that go in the buses’ front display panels, and they said “Baltimore Hospital”. (And I am not in turn mistyping Hospital for Hotel, it was indeed Hospital, here is a picture)

    In line with Boise Ed’s story, below is a picture, current from Google Street view, of The Cove tavern (or I guess cocktail lounge) in the East Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. For a long time half the letters of the vertical part of the illuminated sign were burnt out, and only the other half showed at night. That much is verified. The unconfirmed legend part that everyone liked to tell, was that it varied from night to night which half was off and which half was showing; and that it was an intentional signal of what kind of connection a player might expect to find there that evening.

  8. “Hot L Baltimore” was turned into a TV show. It was not very good (in my opinion) and lasted only one season, 13 episodes. The show took the characters from the play and went off on its own for the episodes. The jokes were as racy as you can get on television. Example: mother and son live in one suite. Mother opens door, sees son (unseen by us) in room, reacts in shock, yells “Stanley! Stop that! That’s illegal in this state!” Presumably he was doing something that could not be named on TV at that time.

  9. When I first read MiB’s story about the storm in Boston, I thought that might have been the origin of the “Baltimore” title, but it turns out that the play (and the TV show) predated the storm by several years.

  10. I don’t think that Johnson had an actual word in mind for the insult that Janis claims to have seen(*). The only capital letters that a (defective) 7-segment display can credibly imitate are “ABCEFHIJLOPSU“. Since it’s an old microwave, the display would be limited to four digits. Running that collection through an anagram generator doesn’t produce anything really convincing, other than a few scatalogical terms (like “POOP”), which is a bit too juvenile in comparison to Janis’s indignation. The best candidates I could find were commentary on her cooking ability (“SLOP”) or appearance (“SLOB”).

    P.S. (*) To paraphrase Watterson’s commentary about Calvin’s infamous “noodle incidident”, the word is “probably more outrageous in the reader’s imagination“.

  11. We are on our 3rd Microwave in 30 years – and none of them have had much use. If not for my sister giving us her second (new in box) microwave, we probably would not have one at all. It is kept unplugged on top of our refrigerator (and we checked with the fridge company and the microwave company with the first one to make sure this was okay). Yes, our kitchen is that is small and our use of the microwave that rare that this arrangement has worked for us. (Current one has a different layout and I need to stand on a chair to reach it – with the others the doors were closer to the top of the fridge.)

    We (obviously) use it rarely. Since the start of the pandemic its main use has been defrosting frozen bread during the period when we went out every 2 months to buy food. Then again, most things we find need a 1000 watt microwave per their box and this is much less.

    But yet, we own a second one. It came in our little RV and is used nightly when we are traveling. Why the difference? If we wanted to use the stove in the RV we would have to go out and turn on the propane and remember to shut it off the next day when we were going out in the RV. So when I boil water at night for my tea and for Robert’s instant grits (late night snack) it is much easier to use the microwave to do so and I can actually reach the one in the RV.

    Do they die of lack of use?

  12. Rats!! Left out – since the house microwave is rarely used the display says “- -” as we never set it. The one in the RV ditto.

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