2810: How to Coil a Cable
|How to Coil a Cable
Title text: The ideal mix for maximum competitive cable-coiling energy is one A/V tech, one rock climber, one sailor, and one topologist.
When long cables or ropes are stored, it's recommended that they be wrapped into neat coils. Not only does this look less messy, but it reduces the danger that cables become entangled with themselves, and with other cables nearby, which can create a major nuisance, and in some cases even risk of damage or injury. However, simply wrapping the whole thing in the same direction introduces twists into the body of the cable. Over time, these twists can permanently deform the cable, causing it to twist into spirals, and once again risking damage.
In this strip, Cueball demonstrates his method for dealing with such problematic cables: he loudly announces the problem, blaming the cable itself. Well-meaning people then immediately descend upon him, eager to share their obscure knowledge of cable-coiling technique that they claim will avoid these issues (a bit like in 208: Regular Expressions). As they explain their techniques for properly coiling cables, they demonstrate on the cable in question, resulting in it becoming neatly coiled. The implication is that Cueball didn't actually learn the techniques involved, but is confident that, in the future, he can simply employ the same technique to get others to do it for him. It's also implied that loudly (and wrongly) blaming the cable is the most effective way to get help, analogous to Cunningham's Law, which states that "the best way to get the right answer on the Internet is not to ask a question; it's to post the wrong answer". This technique will cause some people to compulsively correct it, particularly those who are serious about the subject in question.
The title text specifies four groups of people who are likely to have knowledge about coiling cables, and to be serious about the 'right' way to do it.
- A/V (audio visual) technicians constantly work with multiple types of electrical and data cables, and have to store and sort them without tangling or twisting.
- Rock climbers constantly work with ropes, and their lives and safety may depend on keeping those in good condition and using them properly.
- Sailors traditionally worked on sailing ships, which operated using systems of rigging (often quite complex systems) and sailors were expected to be intimately familiar with handling knots and ropes. Even on more modern vessels, mooring ropes (at a minimum) are still likely to be, in turn, deployed and then stored away upon a working vessel at either end of a visit to a port or harbor.
- Topologists are mathematicians who specialize in study of spatial relations in changing shapes, and is sometimes referred to (somewhat facetiously) as the science of knots. The joke here is that a topologist could likely give an expert analysis in the theory of coiling and storing ropes, but may lack practical experience for doing so in real life.
The methods mentioned in step 3 are all references to actual terms and methods involved with storing rope or cable.
- The "Over-under Method" is a way of coiling cable by hand, where every other loop is twisted in the opposite direction to the first. Doing this properly prevents twists, because each coil reverses the twist introduced by the previous coil.
- "Figure-8" is a method where are rope or cable is wound from a center point, making a circle in one direction, then another in the opposite direction (forming an '8' shape), then repeating until the whole thing is coiled. This prevents twists by turning the rope in both directions an equal number of times.
- "Quarter-turn" is similar to the over-under method, but rather than reversing the direction of the coils, you give the rope a quarter-twist each time you add a loop, to counter the twist introduced.
- "Flaking" involves laying the rope out loosely on a surface. This allows you to unwind any twists or tangles, as well as checking it for kinks or damage. This would often be a first step in preparing the cable.
The joke is that all of the various people involved will have their own preferred technique, and all will rush to prove their superiority of doing things their way. The net effect of this competition is that Cueball's cable ends up neatly coiled, with little effort on his part, which is exactly what he wanted.
- How to Coil a Cable Properly
- [A drawing of a tangled cable appears below the title.]
- Step 1
- [Cueball is standing holding a tangled mess of cable in both hands. Each end of the cable is dragging on the ground.]
- Cueball: I need to buy a different brand of cable! This one always twists into spirals and gets tangled.
- Step 2
- [Ponytail enters the panel from the left, and White Hat enters from the right, to come to Cueball’s rescue.]
- White Hat: No! That's because of how you're coiling it!
- Step 3
- [White Hat holds and coils the cable while he, Hairy, and Ponytail attempt to explain the method behind the cable coiling. Ponytail, White Hat, and Hairy all have the same speech balloon, with many of the words replaced by scribbles to indicate that they are talking over each other and/or that Cueball can only make out a few phrases. Only the following dialogue in the word balloon is legible.]
- Ponytail / White Hat / Hairy: ...over-under method... ...figure-8... ...quarter-turn... ...flaking...
- Step 4
- [White Hat presents the well-coiled cable. A caption with an arrow points to the cable:]
- Neatly coiled!
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