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It's about time...

AccuTrack. Forty years ago it was the latest technology in timing a track meet - no stopwatches needed, no vague guesses on who was first, second, and third. No mistakes.

This was long before FinishLynx and HyTek. Back in the early 80's when poufy hair and perms were popular on women, a center-part all the rage for men. Today AccuTrack is as antiquated as a sweep-hand stopwatch or using punch cards for computer commands.

Before hip numbers (get it?) and Outkast's "Hey ya" - Shake it, shake it, shake it, shake it. Shake it like a Polaroid picture, there was a photo-timing system that used Polaroid single-shot film, the camera shutter activated by a pair of photo sensors ten feet in front of the line - just like every 7-11 has on the front door.

When the beam was broken it started the process; a picture taken of every athlete, inside the camera a corresponding numerical display of elapsed time recorded at the bottom. The film was developed by sliding the photo from the camera, the motion releasing chemicals over the exposed Polaroid film...seconds later...voila! Proof of places and times.

But there were issues.

It took sixty to ninety seconds for the black & white photo to develop. That's where the shake it like a Polaroid picture came in - to speed the process. And thirty seconds to put on the "fixer" so the picture didn't fade and could be lowered on a strong from the timing stand to the officials.

And ninety seconds for the head timer to put it in the viewfinder and write times from 1st to 15th on the timing sheet. And another two minutes, maybe three, to match an athlete to the time - that's presuming officials recorded the correct order of finish.

About five minutes for each race.

Today...well, its like night and day. To match an athlete to their time - maybe one to two seconds for each runner. To capture the file, download it with a portable wi-fi hotspot, and send it to the internet - maybe two seconds.

So today at the York High School meet (Feb. 5th) in Elmhurst IL, someone in California could have known the 55 meter hurdle times in heat 4 of a triangular with Naperville Central and Bolingbrook - less than ten seconds after the last finisher.

Think about it.

With I-pads programmed for field events, that same person in California would know distances and heights before a coach at the meet even knew - unless of course, he/she is savvy enough to use the internet.

So all you coaches out there who are still using sweep-hand stopwatches and Commodore 64's - get with it...start shakin' that booty like a Polaroid picture!


Enjoy this story? Be sure to check out the rest of the website where you can purchase my books, "A Golden Era" and "A Long Road Ahead" which tell the stories of the high school and college running careers of a father in the 70s and his son in the 2000s.

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