~e; EM make.world
Thu, 18 Apr 2002 21:19:46 -0500
[have a few articles to send URLs on, and saw this in
today's local newspaper in print, and felt it is very
relevant to things that are not said, but are relevant
to everyday living. in the past, via book knowledge, it
is information like this, when specialized, which falls
under the 'home economics' category, most times. yet, for
story tellers of the mid-and-late 20th century, these EM
tools, 10 of which are listed below, transform domestic/
home situations, in ways that go beyond simple definitions
of tools, but into social anthropologies, not sure what
or how to say it. some have written in terms of liberation
by such technologies, others, bondage, others, detachment,
others, speed, efficiency, 'delight' at the revolution of
everything by mass manufacturing (fordism/taylerism), the
automated assembly line, modernism, and also market eco-
nomics in that part of the reason the 'electric flat iron'
is notable is because, if remembering the story accurately,
it made the market for affordable, home/domestic tools that
would work for both buyers-and-sellers of the new wares.
it is not unlike today's technologies of 3G (in the USA,
at least), with broadband, video-on-demand, P2P, and all.
reminds me of a story teller, forget the name, of the book
'mechanisation takes command' (oswald i think) who may have
dealt with the domestic issues early to mid-2oth century.
although it may be a simple concept for architects, for me
it has always been a difficult one, once described to me
best by a person who said: relativity is everyone having
simultaneous perspectives (of shared temporal existence),
and thus, like categories or disciplines, to put this one
idea about electromagnetism in the dwelling into one or
another category is to limit it, its meaning, its way of
being, interacting, changing. it makes and is made. and
so, with many views looking at such things (all things),
a more informed perspective could be gained for all, of
the multiperspectived thing. one and many. which reminds
me of a poster/postcard at a local musuem, screenprint
in blue and yellow and possibly black ink on white, which
stated in the 1930s-1920s USA most likely: Wash Day. and
it had a picture of a washer, i think electric or both an
electric and hand-cranked washing machine. it was part of
the wave of bringing electricification to everyone. and
the benefits (and drawbacks). but the rural areas have
always been different, as are their geographies and needs,
and just as with cellular phones or whatever it is, there
needs to be more than one view of things, more than one
plan going on, and many at the helm making things happen.
that postcard today is considered 'modern art' and may
have been done by a well-known or anonymous artist. yet,
its function was not art, but information, a social cause
that went beyond economics and into development of a certain
type of society, certain rules, ways of interacting and in
how people face eachother. and so, to take part in such a
discourse, to help make and tread that course, then it is
possible when many are involved, to shape the course also.
but without a realistic model of the thing itself, it is
unlikely that current rhetoric or past models will do.
there are so many stories, first hand experiences with
these artifacts and their transformative effects on real
peoples' lives. and these people are, sadly, dying in old
persons homes, nursing homes, those who saw it all happen,
who know, from having lived it, what it was like to see a
world transform through media and technologies and power
systems of electrification programs. and yet, without any
value placed in these unique and multiplicitous perspects,
there will be no way to gauge the first-person effects and
unique views and understandings and intimacies with such
massive changes. a simple digital voice recorder and-or
video recorder and an educational project could start to
archive these unique, yet ordinary, peoples extraordinary
experiences, in having lived, and survived, in the 2oth
century. these are lost stories, each day, dying silently.]
====== Forwarded Message ======
Date: 4/18/02 8:35 PM
[This article has been sent to you by the Star Tribune]
BYLINE: Rick Nelson
CREDITLINE: Star Tribune
HEADLINE: Taste: 10 appliances that shook the world
Americans have always had a love affair with technology. Just look at our
kitchens, which are veritable showplaces of 20th-century advancements. Home
cooks of a century ago -- an unpaid workforce composed almost entirely of women
-- faced an unimaginable lifetime of drudgery and backbreaking work.
A handful of labor-saving electrical appliances -- including these 10 -- changed
all that, not only improving the way we cook but significantly altering the way
Refrigerator: Cold wave chills out icebox future
It's hard to imagine that the refrigerator -- a take-for-granted appliance found
in 99 percent of American homes -- once changed everything.
But it did. Equipping the average American kitchen with a reliable source of
cool (and later frozen) air had a profound effect, significantly lengthening the
shelf life of perishable foods, triggering the explosion of the frozen-foods and
meatpacking industries, altering shopping patterns and improving food-safety
conditions. The refrigerator also proved disastrous for the icebox -- insulated
containers cooled by large blocks of ice -- and the vast delivery networks that
A series of 19th-century scientific discoveries led to the first mechanical home
refrigerator in 1913, a cool-air unit that fit within an icebox. A
self-contained, stand-alone unit appeared two years later, although its
astronomical cost (roughly the same as a new car) kept initial consumer interest
But when technological improvements led to lower prices (much in the same way
that personal computer prices continue to fall as PCs become more and more
sophisticated), annual U.S. production took off, climbing from 5,000 in 1921 to
1 million a decade later. The industry really soared in the 1930s: By 1937, U.S.
factories were cranking out 3 million refrigerators a year.
General Electric and General Motors were responsible for many early innovations.
Frigidaire, G.M.'s name brand, was so ubiquitous (the company had sold more than
50 million by 1965) that the name became generic, which is why many people still
refer to their refrigerator as the fridge. A 1999 poll by the Harris Corp. found
that the refrigerator was bested only by the computer and the television as the
20th century's most significant technological achievements.
Stove: electric or gas, cooks heat up with ease
Imagine preparing every meal over an open hearth, which is what most cooks did
until the 1830s and the advent of the mass-produced wood-or coal-fueled
cast-iron stove. Gas and electric versions came on the scene in the late 19th
century (the first commercial electric oven was produced by Carpenter Electric
Heating Manufacturing Co. of St. Paul). Their manageable size, reliability,
safety and convenience quickly made them standard operating equipment; they're
now found in all but 2 percent of U.S. homes, which means a few cooks must be
cooking over hot plates or only in microwaves.
Standing mixer: From Navy to home kitchen, it finds a
Like many home appliances, the standing mixer has industrial antecedents. In the
early 1900s, engineer Herbert Johnston was observing a baker mixing bread dough
with a metal spoon; soon he was toying with a mechanical counterpart. By 1906,
his 60-quart Hobart mixer was standard equipment on all U.S. Navy vessels, as
well as in many commercial bakeries. World War I intervened before Hobart could
jump into the residential market, but by 1918, company executives were testing
models in their homes. "I don't care what you call it," legend has one of the
executives' spouses espousing, "all I know is it's the best kitchen aid I've
The name stuck. The first 5-quart countertop KitchenAid mixers were not cheap:
$189.50, or about $2,000 in 2002 dollars. Weighing in at 65 pounds, they weren't
convenient, either. But that all changed in 1936, when pioneering industrial
designer Egmont Ahrens trimmed the mixer down and chopped the price to $55. The
iconic Streamline shape has changed so little that Ahrens' bullet silhouette is
The mixer's mechanics remain virtually unaltered, too. "An attachment made in
1919 -- the pea shucker, for instance -- will fit on today's model," said Brian
Maynard, KitchenAid's marketing director. Tens of millions of KitchenAid mixers
have been manufactured at the same Greenville, Ohio, factory that produced the
first one in 1919.
Sold only in white until 1954, it's now available in 20 colors; white remains
the top seller. The White House pastry kitchen has three mixers, one each in
red, white and blue; Julia Child's cobalt-blue KitchenAid mixer now rests in the
KitchenAid may have been first, but the widespread acceptance of the electric
standing mixer actually belongs to a more populist-priced appliance, the Sunbeam
MixMaster. Sold at a fraction of the KitchenAid's price (in the early 1930s, it
retailed for $18.25, about $240 in 2002 dollars), the MixMaster caught on like
Within six years of its 1930 introduction -- and at the height of the Depression
-- the company was selling 300,000 MixMasters a year. As a testament to their
popularity, the U.S. Postal Service portrayed them in a 1998 stamp series that
highlighted the most memorable trends of each decade of the 20th century; the
MixMaster was chosen as the definitive image of the 1930s' household
Sunbeam put out its first hand-held MixMaster in 1952. Although the KitchenAid
standing mixer is the current market leader, the MixMaster remains a viable
rival. "Even today," said David Vallin, group manager for Sunbeam, "people who
own KitchenAid standing mixers point to them and say, 'Look at my MixMaster.' "
Dishwasher: Readymade suds
not for women only
It seems fitting that a woman invented the dishwasher.
Not that Josephine Garis Cochrane suffered from dishpan hands, nor was
"labor-saving device" part of her vocabulary. Exasperated with her household
staff's propensity to chip her fine china, the affluent Shelbyville, Ill., widow
began to tinker with creating a reliable dish-washing device.
Her breakthrough utilized a copper boiler outfitted with wire racks. Soapy water
was sprayed through a hand pump, the rinse cycle involved pouring boiling water
from a tea kettle and dishes drip-dried in the open air. Dazzled friends begged
her to make copies for their kitchens.
Cochrane was awarded the first of many patents in 1886 and was the talk of
Chicago's 1893 Columbian Exposition, where her invention -- which could wash up
to 20 dozen dishes in two minutes -- took the top medal for "best mechanical
construction, durability and adaptation to the line of work."
Cochrane sat at the helm of her successful company, Garis-Cochrane Manufacturing
Co., until her death in 1913, the same year the company introduced its first
Garis-Cochrane changed hands several times before 1926, when it landed under the
control of the Hobart Co. In 1949, Hobart introduced the first dishwashers sold
under the KitchenAid name, still the best-selling brand of premium dishwashers
in the United States.
Cochrane would be proud of her brainchild's evolution. According to Whirlpool,
the first portable dishwashers appeared in 1935, and a fully automatic model
with a built-in heater (to prevent water spots) appeared in 1940. Built-in
dishwashers debuted in 1969, and the first "quiet" dishwasher hit the market in
Today, the U.S. Census Bureau reports that nearly 54 percent of American
households -- roughly 63 million homes -- are equipped with dishwashers.
Toaster: One slice fits all in Minnesota
Charles Strite hated burned toast, a nearly unavoidable consequence of most
early-model electric toasters. The Stillwater, Minn., mechanic set out to build
a better toaster, and he succeeded: His ingenious pop-up design simultaneously
toasted both sides of the bread and worked on a timer to prevent burning.
Patented in 1919, the first pop-up toaster, named the Toastmaster, was put into
production for restaurants' commercial use by the Waters-Genter Co. of
Minneapolis in 1921. By 1926, the company released a home-use version, a chrome
one-slicer. Strite's invention was so universally accepted that within four
years, toaster-friendly packaged sliced bread -- starting with the Wonder Bread
label -- became the best thing to come along since, well, sliced bread.
Microwave: Even creator
pops corn with it
Next time you nuke a bag of popcorn, say a word of thanks to Percy Spencer, a
high-school dropout and self-taught engineer who developed the science behind
the microwave oven.
In 1946, while working on a radar project for the Raytheon Corp., he discovered
that the emissions from a new vacuum tube were strong enough to melt the
chocolate in his shirt pocket; for a follow-up test, he popped corn. The next
year, Spencer introduced the Radarange (the winning name from an employee
contest), aimed at commercial use; it resembled a refrigerator and retailed for
Although the high-speed microwave oven would radically alter American cooking
habits, interest in it grew slowly. Raytheon eventually licensed the technology
to the Tappan Co., which released the first domestic-use microwave oven in 1952;
it was the size of an electric stove and cost $1,300. In 1965, Raytheon got back
into the microwave-oven business when it purchased Amana; two years later, Amana
introduced the first countertop microwave oven, a 650-watt machine priced at
The technology really took off after 1971 (Minneapolis-based Litton Microwave
Cooking Products was an early innovator), when the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration laid down stringent safety standards for manufacturers. This move
quickly convinced consumers that radiation levels weren't high enough to cause
By 1978, 10 percent of American homes -- the benchmark where an appliance goes
beyond fad status -- were equipped with microwave ovens. Today, the Association
of Home Appliance Manufacturers estimates that nine out of 10 U.S. homes rely
upon the convenience of microwave ovens.
Blender: Better malts made through engineering
On a quest to make a better malted-milk shake, Stephen Poplawski, a Racine,
Wis., engineer, perfected a motorized agitator that quickly and uniformly
blended ingredients. His machine -- the precursor to what we think of as the
blender -- debuted in 1922 and quickly became a familiar sight at soda counters
across the United States.
Inventor Fred Osius (later a cofounder of appliance manufacturer Hamilton Beach)
took Poplawski's idea one step further. He developed a leak-proof glass pitcher
that was equipped with rotating blades and lifted easily off its motorized base.
Osius approached bandleader Fred Waring for financial backing, and in 1937 what
Osius had called the Miracle Mixer was renamed the Waring Blendor (the offbeat
spelling was Waring's idea). It had two settings -- on and off -- and became the
darling of bartenders everywhere.
Meanwhile, Green Manufacturing, Poplawski's employer, was eventually purchased
by an entrepreneur named John Oster. The Osterizer, the company's distinctive
beehive-shaped blender, hit the market in 1946. Aimed at consumers, its
multiple-speed options were an advancement over the single-speed Waring Blendor.
Tech-crazed consumers loved them, and sales skyrocketed all the way through the
1970s, when the food processor put a serious dent in the blender industry. But
thanks in part to the nation's passion for blender drinks, the blender remains
popular. IMR Research estimates that more than 111 million blenders are in use
in American kitchens.
Crock-Pot: Slow catches
on fast for dinner
While there are no yellowing archival images of Gloria Steinem clutching a
burning bra in one hand and a Rival Crock-Pot in the other, historians will
someday recognize that the electric slow cooker played a pivotal -- albeit
unheralded -- role in the women's movement of the 1970s.
"The ease and convenience of the slow cooker changed the way families were able
to enjoy a home-cooked meal," said Heather Jones-Lawlor of Rival. "Busy working
moms no longer had to stand over the stove while making dinner."
Mom in the workplace, but still making dinner: It was social revolution
supported by cooking innovation. Rival, which brought the electric can opener to
the masses in 1957, unleashed the nation's first slow cooker in 1971; the design
was based upon a simple ceramic-lined electric bean cooker called the Beanery.
The phenomenon caught on fast (an early TV advertising slogan was "Cooks all day
while the cook's away) and has enjoyed remarkable staying power. Over the past
31 years, Rival estimates it has sold 80 million Crock-Pots, and sales are
stronger than ever.
Contemporary Crock-Pots, which outsell their competitors four to one, have come
a long way, baby. Sleeker than their Nixon-era avocado-green ancestors, many are
outfitted with such cutting-edge features as removable, easy-to-clean stoneware
linings and time-and-temperature programming options. Rival alone sells more
than 70 models.
"But in a way," said Jones-Lawlor, "the only thing that's really changed is that
they're even more convenient than they used to be."
Automatic coffee maker: Revolutionary brewing
The 1970s also spawned two other how-did-we-live-without-them? appliances.
In 1972, Vincent Marotta Sr. and his partner Samuel Glazer interpreted the
restaurant drip coffeemaker for household use. They called their automatic-drip
coffeemaker Mr. Coffee, and "it truly revolutionized home brewing," said David
Vallen of Sunbeam, which bought the brand in 1998.
Mr. Coffee flew off the shelves, its success aided in part by an advertising
campaign featuring baseball legend Joe DiMaggio; the easy-to-use machine's
sure-fire ability to brew a good cup of java didn't hurt. Within five years,
Marotta and Glazer's company was doing about $150 million in annual sales (in
today's dollars it would be about triple that).
Not only did Mr. Coffee spawn a blizzard of copycats -- there are currently more
than two dozen brands of automatic-drip coffeemakers on the market -- but it
pretty much eliminated burn-prone electric and stovetop percolators. IMR
Research, a market-research firm, estimates that there are about 115 million
automatic-drip coffeemakers in use in the United States today, and Sunbeam
guesstimates that one in three sold today are Mr. Coffees.
Food processor: Speed with the push of a button
After seeing a restaurant food preparation machine at a 1971 French housewares
show, retired physicist Carl Sontheimer decided to acquire the U.S. distribution
rights. Over the next two years, he modified it for home use, adding safety and
convenience features. He christened his food processor the Cuisinart.
Foodies, immediately recognizing the Cuisinart's ability to compress the most
mundane, time-consuming kitchen tasks to the push of a button, started banging
the publicity drums in support ("This machine has changed my life," wrote James
Beard in his influential, nationally syndicated column, "and I can no longer
live without it").
Cooks from coast to coast snapped up the machine. With its strength and
versatility, the food processor quickly usurped the blender as America's
favorite food-preparation device.
-- Rick Nelson is at firstname.lastname@example.org .
====== End Forwarded Message ======
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