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Thing-O-Meter

A speedometer measures how fast you go, a radiometer measures the radiant flux of electromagnetic radiation, and the Thing-O-Meter measures everything else.

Commonly seen as the Laugh-O-Meter or Applause-O-Meter, which is based on the Clap-O-Meter used in old game shows. There are thousands of variations, though— Suck-O-Meter, Creep-O-Meter, Love-O-Meter, Sarcasm-O-Meter, basically Whatever-You-Want-O-Meter.

They're usually not very reliable, as their indicators are prone to going off-scale or even breaking. They generally measure things on an Abstract Scale.

Though popularized by game shows and the like, this trope is Older Than Radio at the very least: William Hogarth's 1727 satirical engraving Masquerade Ticket features "a pair of lecherometers, showing the company's inclinations as they approach 'em."

Not to be confused with any of the meters used in games (like Karma Meter). Compare Thing-O-Matic, The Little Detecto, Everything Sensor and 20% More Awesome.


Examples:

Advertising

Film
  • Ghostbusters. When the team goes after the library ghost Egon Spengler has a meter that reads PKE (Psycho Kinetic Energy) valences, which are apparently given off by ghosts. It's the one that has the "arms" go up when the PKE increases. When Venkmann goes into Dana's apartment, he brings an odd meter of some sort with a long pole that sucks in air, with a hand-pump. When Dana asks him about it, he only says that it's one of their "little toys."
    • It's a real-life device called a "Bacharach Chemical Sniffer," once used to check for gas leaks and other things. One could, in theory, use it to find evidence of a haunting (vapor trails and such), but con-man Venkman is only trying to look like he knows what he's doing.
  • The movie That Thing You Do! has an applause-o-meter that determines the winner of a band contest.
  • In Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, the FLDSMDFR has a dangeometer to warn Flint if the food is going to over-mutate.
  • In Men In Black, Agent J comments that the Edgar Bug gets a 9 on his "Weird-S#!t-O-Meter." Earlier, Agent K uses a small soil analyzer with a row of multicolored lights to determine what kind of alien he's dealing with. ("Green" apparently means "Bug.")

Literature
  • Discworld's thaumometer, which measures a magical field in "thaums". Mind you, this is just a perfectly sensible piece of equipment for a wizard on a world run by magic.
    • Moving Pictures has the resograph, a device designed by a wizard named Riktor the Tinkerer to measure changes in the fabric of reality. On the Discworld, said fabric is a lot more flexible thanks to the power of belief and the Theory of Narrative Causality. Riktor also invented the Mouse Counternote , the Rev Counternote  and the Swamp Meternote .

Live-Action TV
  • Queen for a Day's Applause Meter - Trope Maker if not Ur Example.
  • Dr. Fad, a children's game show from the late 1980s which focused on creativity and using scientific knowledge to solve problems, had a round where the contestants brought their inventions (pre-made before the show), and explained and demonstrated the items. The audience reaction was measured with an on-screen meter, with the winner decided by how far to the right the needle went.
  • Canadian teen talk show Jonovision had an applause-o-meter to determine how much of the audience agreed with the topic du jour.
  • On Frasier, Niles snarks that the psychic debunker they've invited over will be bringing a "ghost-oh-meter" (hard "o"). Daphne rejoins that it's called a "ghost-ah-meter" (soft "o").
  • In the Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode featuring Angel's Revenge, Tom Servo invents a Shame-O-Meter (pronounced "shuh-MAH-meh-ter") to measure the shame the actors in the film are feeling.
  • Saved by the Bell had a Love-O-Meter at The Max.
  • An Ascendometer is a self-contained, portable unit from the Stargate Verse used to analyze neural activity in the brain. This allows people to judge how close to ascension someone is.
    • Originally found on P3X-584 in Stargate SG-1, the device was named as such by Cameron Mitchell, leaving Samantha Carter wishing she had thought of it first.
    • Assumably the very same device was used in Stargate Atlantis when they were monitoring how near to ascension Dr. Rodney McKay was during the events of 'The Tao of Rodney'.
  • The Summarize Proust Competition on Monty Python's Flying Circus uses a graph gauge to determine who can summarize Marcel Proust's A La Recherhe du Temps Perdu best. (No one can, so the prize goes to the girl with the biggest tits.)
  • Top Gear's cock-o-meter measures how much of cock you are judging by the car you're driving. Hammond's BMW M3 tops it.
  • Hot Seat was a short-lived ABC game show from 1976 (which premiered the same day Family Feud did) in which married couples are attached to lie detectors in answering questions about their married life.

Newspaper Comics
  • One Far Side strip has a dog pointing a device at a mailman which measures the subject's level of fear.

Pinball
  • Bally's Dr. Dude has the Dude-O-Meter and the Jackpot-O-Meter.
  • Fish Tales has "Stretch The Truth", a gauge which measures how big the current catch really is from "5X Actual Size" to "Total Lie".
  • Scared Stiff is named after the "Stiff-O-Meter", which has ten levels from "Hair Raising" and "Pulse Pounding" up to "Heart Stopping" and "Scared Stiff".
  • During the "Farley Claymore" mode in The Shadow, a "Hit-O-Meter" appears; making key shots results in Farley getting smacked and the meter getting emptied.
  • The Party Zone has the "Rock-It Meter", which indicates how much fuel the player has collected by how far he will go, from the "Wisconsin State Line", past "The Edge of Reality", and up to "The NEW Frontier!"

Professional Wrestling
  • During his reign as WWE Intercontinental Champion, Santino Marella would rate himself against the longest-reigning IC champ in history, The Honky Tonk Man, using the "Honk-A-Meter".

Radio

Video Games
  • A strange old PC game called "How to be a Complete Bastard" has several meters including a "food-o-meter" and a "wee-o-meter". No need to say what those stand for.

Webcomic

Web Original

Western Animation
  • A laugh-o-meter features prominently in a the Batman: The Animated Series episode "Almost Got 'Im," where Joker rigs one up to an electric chair, straps Batman to it, and lets laughing gas leak into a studio audience.
  • The Care Bears have, of course, the Caring Meter, which monitors how much caring is going around on Earth.
  • Clone High's official voting system for student council president is an applause-o-meter. This meant that, in a heated competition between Abe Lincoln and JFK for the presidency, the winner was a random puppy who wandered on stage.
  • On Futurama Professor Farnsworth once pulled out a "cool-o-meter" which apparently measured coolness in MegaFonzies.
    • On another occasion, he pulled out a "Doom-o-meter" that measures just how doomed something is, in Milidooms. Of course, 1000 Milidooms = 1 Doom.
  • The Simpsons: Professor Frink's Sarcasm Detector.
    Lyndsey Nagle: Do I detect a note of sarcasm?
    Frink: With sarcasm detector Are you kidding? This baby is off the charts, mm-hai.
    Comic Book Guy: A sarcasm detector, that's a really useful invention. [Sarcasm detector explodes]
    • Frink has also brought his Frog-Exaggerator to Loch Ness, thinking he had brought his Monster-o-meter.
    • Also from The Simpsons, in the "spinoff" The Lovematic Grandpa, wherein Grandpa Simpson dies and is reincarnated as a love testing machine at Moe's.
    • Martin once built a device that accurately measured surprise as a school project. People learning what the device did registered "mild surprise". When they found out that Lisa had successfully turned Groundskeeper Willie into a gentleman, it went higher.
  • A season 2 episode of Laff-a-Lympics employed an applause meter to gauge which of the three teams would win a specific event. Mildew Wolf would hold his microphone to the camera, presumably for the viewers at home to vote by applause. Naturally, the Really Rottens got bupkis.

Real Life
  • As mentioned in the description, the Clap-O-Meter, which was a feature on many game shows in the 60s and 70s. It was supplanted by more accurate forms of audience voting, like keypads.
    • There's also the version without an actual meter - you "vote by your applause" and the judges decide who/what gets the loudest applause. Used often in Bikini contests.
  • When discussing the development of the Wii, Miyamoto mentioned a theoretical "Wife-o-Meter" he used to measure his wife's increasing interest in video games over the years.
  • Perhaps the most pervasive example ever would be the speedometer in your car.
  • British election coverage always features the Swingometer, a needle that is turned from one major party to the other to indicate how many voters have switched their allegiance. Originally a cardboard prop (which was parodied in the election night sketch on Monty Python's Flying Circus as spinning crazily around), it has more recently taken the form of CGI.
  • As referenced in several of the examples above, various devices are described as being able to "test" how much two people love each other. There are stand-alone machines, sometimes seen in bars or arcades, there are pocket-sized ones (somewhat popular in Japan), and naturally several dozen written "tests" (frequently in magazines like Cosmopolitan) which will supposedly rate how strong a relationship is.
    • In 1979 inventor Carlisle Dixon patented a system for single people to identify potential friends/lovers in crowds. Each person programs a personal transceiver with musical, literary, and other preferences. When two such transceivers detect each other, the person carrying them is told how compatible they are.
  • During the 1980s, the beginning of the drunk-driving-is-wrong awareness era (thanks to MADD and other organizations), bars would often install breath-alysers as a public service, so that patrons could know "when to say when." The practice was discontinued when people started using the machines to adjudicate who's-the-most-drunk contests.
  • The id Tech 3-based games (Quake III: Arena, Call of Duty), as well as engines derived from id Tech 3 (Infinity Ward's IW Engine) feature a Lag-O-Meter, which measures network lag during online play.

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