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A toaster from 1949 is still smarter than any sold today (theverge.com)
317 points by ourmandave 1 day ago | hide | past | favorite | 216 comments





They bury the lede in the last fucking paragraph. The reason this toaster is immensely better than the toaster you have at home is very, very simple: this toaster's 1949 price would be hundreds of dollars in 2021 terms.

You can still buy really, truly excellent toasters made for industrial/commercial use, or for the homes of the very rich, and they're quite a lot better than the trash people keep in their houses. And they cost a lot more, too. Last time I checked, a commercial 2-slice toaster was in the $300-$400 range.

This is true for lots of home appliances. My favorite example is the Kitchenaid mixer. The modern mixers are very thoroughly "value engineered" to keep the price down. If you want to buy an original "Kitchenaid," like they made in the 1930s, you can call up Hobart and buy a miniature mixer. And it will cost you ~$2,000 in 2021, just as it did in 1935.

You can have the good toaster, the good mixer, etc, but it sure looks like people don't actually want that. The pattern of product offerings in your average store suggests people want something affordable, and it doesn't particularly matter whether it is good at its job.


> They bury the lede in the last fucking paragraph. The reason this toaster is immensely better than the toaster you have at home is very, very simple: this toaster's 1949 price would be hundreds of dollars in 2021 terms.

From the article it seemed that it's better because it has a radiant temperature sensor rather than a simple timer. Unless you're disputing that and saying it's good for some other reason that would cost a lot of money, a temperature sensor and little control system for it would not cost hundreds of dollars to make today.

EDIT: The problem seems to be that regular consumer appliances seem to have raced to the bottom in the past 30 years or so. It's not that a significantly better toaster would cost hundreds of dollars more, it's that it would cost a few dollars more. The high end things that are 10x the price seem to be priced that way mostly because there is not a strong mid range market, or maybe they compete on gimmicks rather than basics. Because you don't need a $300 powder coated steel toaster with an a glass oven door and 5 cooking regimes including steaming that was mentioned in the article (https://us.balmuda.com/collections/toaster) to get the functionality and robustness of their simple 1940s sunbeam toaster.


Basically all toasters use temperature to stop rather than time. Am I missing something?

I actually looked for a timer based toaster for ages and couldn't find one.


I don't know, I'm just going by the article and youtube video referenced.

From the article: and it’s got a mechanical thermostat inside that stops your bread toasting when it’s toasted and ready, NOT after some arbitrary amount of time.

From the video: Modern toasters operate based on a timer...


Some toasters have a simple timer circuit that releases an electromagnet to trigger the toast to pop up. There is usually a resister to adjust darkness that controls how long the timer runs.

The cheapest toasters apply current to a bimetallic strip that heats up and bends away from the contact causing the heating to stop and the toast to pop up. These are variable due to ambient temperature and because the bimetallic strip is still warm if you do a second batch of toast and will trigger too soon.

These are both indirect proxies for doneness of the toast, not a direct measure like the toaster featured in the article.


Watching the video with the article I'm truely amazed at the engineering involved in this. In some ways it's so simple, in other ways its crazy complex. Without the timer and automatic io of the toast, I think it would be expensive to manufacture. The internal design might be harder to automate to keep cost down.

I think*


> and it doesn't particularly matter whether it is good at its job.

I would amend that to: "it doesn't matter whether it excels at its job, as long as it's good enough." And those modern, cheap toasters are good enough.


>You can have the good toaster, the good mixer, etc, but it sure looks like people don't actually want that. The pattern of product offerings in your average store suggests people want something affordable, and it doesn't particularly matter whether it is good at its job.

I've always wondered if we could fix this through legislation that forces manufacturers of consumer goods to provide an estimate of product lifetime according to some agreed standard - the same way that manufacturers of large appliances have to provide information about energy and water use.

As it stands, it's really hard for the consumer to know whether or not the $1000 coffee machine is actually better quality than the $500 one, or whether they're just milking a fancy brand name and relying on FUD.


I want legislation that the manufacturer has to publish, online and in a conspicuous place, full board-level schematics, parts lists, and service notes for household appliances no later than the day after the first unit of a model goes out of warranty. Or that such documents are placed prominently in the packaging the product arrives in and that installers are required by law to provide it to the customer. You can sell something that breaks in 3 years but you have to give me the documents I need to repair it including the logic board. My biggest fear in getting a new washer/dryer is that it starts my wife and I on the same junk treadmill everyone else is on.

how do you imagine this working for the manufacturers of, e.g. hardware security modules? in fact, for any product, the manufacter can just claim the product consists of one 'part' and the service notes state 'obtain new part', adjusting for whatever level of granularity/number of parts they feel is optimal, unless you want to get into a game of definitions and semantics that will always be incomplete and incorrect and unenforceable...

> My biggest fear in getting a new washer/dryer is that it starts my wife and I on the same junk treadmill everyone else is on.

In my experience, the more expensive washers/driers (e.g. >$1000) are actually higher quality and last 5 times longer than the cheap, or even mid range ones.


I have had the exact opposite experience. The cheap ones with physical buttons and timers last longer and are way cheaper to fix if it does break.

>>I've always wondered if we could fix this through legislation that forces manufacturers of consumer goods to provide an estimate of product lifetime according to some agreed standard

We can, but again, I feel like a lot of customers don't want that. Even here on HN I hear people saying that well, if I want to buy a $200 washing machine that falls apart in 3 years, then it should be my god given right to do so. If consumers want better appliances then they can just buy them without the need for regulation.

I don't really agree with that mindset, but I think it's common enough to prevent the change you're talking about.


> if I want to buy a $200 washing machine that falls apart in 3 years, then it should be my god given right to do so

The $200 unrepairable washing machine has a massive negative externality for the planet. Most people don't think in those terms (especially when the budget is tight, or they are landlords and just need to put checkmark items in the apartment), that's why we should have strong regulations to prevent mass-creation of electro crap.

Regulation is good, because it sets a baseline. W/o regulation it's race to the bottom so if company X does something better but it's $50 more expensive, the cheaper company Y. If you have baseline, they both will figure out a $250 machine which is better. Companies who can't create durable items do not have god given right to exist and sell crap which harms the planet.

Thankfully EU has been working on this recently, and will require the vendors to offer N years of spare parts availability.

> If consumers want better appliances then they can just buy them without the need for regulation.

See above. I have a low-repairability fridge whose rubber-magnet got old. Fix? Replace whole door, which costs as much as the new fridge. I don't think my landlord was taking weeks to research repairability and warranty rules for the fridge, because why would they? The law should provide reasonable defaults.

I do hope we'll move towards fewer long-lived models with good repairability, even if it costs more short-term, than 7 new fridge model each years with half-life of 2 years. It's nuts.

Another thing we have in EU is power-hungriness of devices (they get labeled prominently A, B, C, D, E). IMO should be the same with warranty / spare parts availability length: One year = E, ten years = A etc.


I'm not arguing that we ban washing machines that break in 3 years, just that they're properly labelled.

> legislation that forces manufacturers of consumer goods to provide an estimate of product lifetime according to some agreed standard

isn't this exactly what a guarantee or warranty is? we have this now, where the manufacturer is legally obligated to provide a device that performs/operates/works according to the published specification for at least that long. of course, it doesn't work since consumers will then complain about 'planned obsolescence' when products actually live up to these estimates...


Cheap toasters today don’t have a shorter lifetime than this one. In fact, they have fewer moving parts.

This would make more sense if manufacturing hadn’t improved in that time. But isn’t it reasonable to expect the price of these items to have reduced over the past 100 years?

I think this says more about the decreased purchasing power of the average US household than it does about what people want. The Venn diagram of what a person wants and what they can afford is rarely a circle.

> I think this says more about the decreased purchasing power of the average US household

What does it say about that?


Compared to the way it was during the lifetime of this model from a major company offering all price points, there is no longer a sizable enough percentage of Americans able to afford supporting this level of quality/superior-engineering for production to have continued past a certain year.

Since everyone is mentioning Technology Connections (he deserves it, great channel), I want to bring up this video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UiS27feX8o0

To me, this really shows the sad direction smart appliances have gone in. I would love to see that smart appliances would have continued to evolve in this direction. I don't like the current state of smart appliances, but going back to the absolute basic seems like an over-reaction to me.


I wanted to automate my house, but the results convinced me that starting from the absolute basics and growing from it is the best approach. It's more environmentally friendly too.

The only smart devices left are some smart bulbs, and I'm waiting for them to fail before replacing them with regular LEDs. Nothing beats the reliability and energy/resource savings of plain locks and buttons.


A smart home can be reliable, useful and environmentally friendly (if we consider potential energy savings). You just won't get there with consumer-grade solutions. Pretty much every consumer-grade tech nowadays is designed to generate "engagement" and collect data; the actual "useful" work it does is only the bare-minimum needed to convince you to buy the product and "engage" with it.

If you look beyond the consumer-grade trash, you can get somewhere nice with $500 if you go the DIY route with modules/relays supporting open protocols and Home Assistant, or if you have several thousands to spare check out higher-end solutions such as Crestron.

Any good system will be completely self-contained, not rely on the internet, and provided the hardware is maintained should last essentially forever.


> A smart home can be reliable, useful and environmentally friendly.

Unless you have free spare electricity, I think it’s very difficult for smart electric lighting to be environmentally friendly. The controllers simply need too much standby power.

For example, https://eprel.ec.europa.eu/screen/product/lightsources/84743... is a 5W IKEA lamp that uses 0,3W when powered off. So, the lamp itself uses 4,7W, and you can leave that light on for about 1½ hour every day for the power that the controller uses. Said otherwise, you currently have to have such a light on longer than needed for 1½ hour every day to make up for the energy use of the controller. Add in energy used to make the controller and it gets worse.

There are days where I accidentally leave on a light for 1½ hours, but that’s nowhere near the average over all my lamps over a year.

Smart lights give you convenience. They won’t help saving the environment.


Crestron may be as good as humanity can do for home automation, but it's the way to madness with proprietary development tools, security vulnerabilities, and hardware that still isn't up to infrastructure reliability levels.

without watching the video, just based on the description. is this the smart microwave one?

That was an awesome video. Thank you for sharing !!

His whole channel (called Technology Connections) is probably my favorite one on YouTube, can’t recommend it enough! My favorites are his series on refrigeration and heat pumps, for example this one:

https://youtube.com/watch?v=7J52mDjZzto

Edit: to clarify, this article is based on an old Technology Connections video, and the creator of that video has lots more!


Technology Connections is hands down one of my favorite Youtube channels.

Another guy worth mentioning that tickles the brain cells in a similar way is Isaac Arthur: a guy that breaks down science fiction into science fact, and explores what we could actually do someday in the future, and pokes fun at the stuff that will probably never happen but has become familiar tropes anyways.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZFipeZtQM5CKUjx6grh54g

If you want another down to earth (ahem) channel that also explores tech, there's Tech Ingredients who has done crazy things like build the ultimate (and certainly weirdest) speakers, his own epoxy, his own thermal paste, his own whiskey with his own still, his own compressorless fridge and AC, his own rocket motors....

https://www.youtube.com/user/TechIngredients


Thanks, I wasn't aware of those two!

Riffing on those, I can also recommend DIY Perks. He makes pretty stunning electronics projects. https://www.youtube.com/c/DIYPerks


I might just come forward and recommend NighthawkInLight. He does not upload as frequently as some of the other channels mentioned here but his videos tend to have a much higher production value for some just as interesting topics of science and technology.

https://youtube.com/c/Nighthawkinlight


Isaac Arthur is almost certainly a pseudonym paying homage to Isaac Asimov and Arthur C Clarke

Would be but is surprisingly not.

Nominative determinism strikes again!

wow, okay, that's surprising for sure!

Seconded, I learned a ton about A/V systems from him. He has excellent technical content. Learning about how the old electromechanical juke boxes worked was fascinating.

I can also recommend Applied Science. He explains the concepts behind numerous concepts and applies them to a home project in his garage. Such project include: Home made electron microscope Chemical glass strengthening Robotic cookie maker Creating X-Rays Messing around with supercritical CO2

https://m.youtube.com/c/AppliedScience/videos

He does all sorts of random shit and it is absolutely wonderful


Applied Science is amazing, +1 highly recommended. Well, to both.

His videos is an amazing demonstration of a general scientific engineering process: "At the 84:th attempt I started to see some promising results..."

For A/V stuff, I went looking for an understanding of how color works in video systems, and ran across this gem from Captain Disillusion:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FTKP0Y9MVus

His whole channel is great, though there's not a ton there, it makes sense given the staggering amount of work that goes into the visualizations of each one.


Love his channel! My favourite videos are the ones about dishwashers.

CED saga for me.

He won me with the video about why hurricane lamps look like they do: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tURHTuKHBZs

I watched a few videos from his channel and always amazed/wondered how can he has so many vintage items and deep knowledge of/around them. I really enjoy his presentation skill and sense of humour.

The jokes are painfully corny. But everything else about his channel is gold.

I'm a pretty corny person, so I enjoy them. Not laugh-out-loud funny, but at least smile-worthy.

I do really enjoy his presentation style, and the technical content is well-written and fascinating.


Past related threads:

The Classic Sunbeam Radiant Control Toaster (2006) - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23723112 - July 2020 (47 comments)

How to design a good toaster with lessons from the 1940s [video] - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=23363646 - May 2020 (17 comments)

An Antique Toaster That's Better Than Today’s [video] - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21164014 - Oct 2019 (232 comments)

Also slightly related:

Toaster Central: Antique and Vintage Toasters and Waffle Irons - https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21432144 - Nov 2019 (7 comments)


I can contribute another simple example of a kitchen appliance that didn't necessarily get smarter: the cooking plate! Remember the good old cookers with rotary switches? Those actually had up to seven different stages of heating (see schematic here http://www.herd.josefscholz.de/7Takt/img16.gif)! While the new digital ones are... digital - i.e. they switch the plate on and off repeatedly to produce different amounts of heat, but that depends on the pot/pan/whatever you put on it to store the heat while the plate is off. So a definite step backward if you ask me...

At least from my experience my induction stove does not seem to have this problem, which kinda makes sense if you think about it: It already has to switch on/off many times per second to induce current, so it can just skip some cycles.

I suppose as induction slowly wins over resistive heating this will become a non issue once again.


I really loved my induction range and miss it, having moved back to gas. It could bring an 8 quart pot of water to a rolling boil in two minutes flat.

The digital touch screen ones won because they are so much easier to clean. A current model induction stove is a completely flat sheet of glass. You spray some chemical on it and give it a wipe down and its done. No pulling knobs off, working between gaps, etc.

And on the switching behavior, I believe that is more related to just how induction cooking works rather than the way you control it. The values on the control panel are not exact anyway, you are always going to have to get a feel for how they work for your setup.

I moved from a house with an induction stove to a classic gas stove and its an absolute nightmare. Cooks slower and takes 50x the effort to clean.


To be fair, they do have gas stoves with inductive touch panels now. Only thing to clean are the grills themselves.

The knobs are part of it but the actual grill bits are by far the worst. I don't understand why gas stoves are so popular when you have to pull them to bits and scrub down after every use if you don't want them looking like crap. While induction is faster and takes a 20 second spray and wipe.

My best friend growing up lived in a multigenerational home with hardcore Italian grandparents who took care of everything. I’d venture to guess that most objects in their home were nicer than the day they were purchased. The couches were covered in vinyl, floors waxed weekly, etc. The basement of that house was like a museum to tools and laundry.

Even his grandparents didn’t clean the stove after each use. They lined the burner area with foil instead.


>I don't understand why gas stoves are so popular when you have to pull them to bits and scrub down after every use if you don't want them looking like crap.

Because that literally isn't a concern for almost everyone who has one? I clean mine once a week.


Gas stoves can put out significantly more power than electric, and achieve high temperatures much more rapidly. It's very convenient compared to electric.

That's not particularly true

Inductive stoves are vastly more efficient than the old fashioned resistive coil stoves, so your 3000W of input power can yield cooking heat similar to a 40,000 or 50,000 btu gas stove.

They also reach temp much, much more quickly than the old style. You can vary the output as quickly as a gas stove.


The induction ones are crazy powerful now. The one I was looking at could pull 12kW. Could boil a pot of water very fast. Much faster than gas.

I suspect that the 12KW isn't to a single burner, but rather the total across all burners. A typical home gas range is probably totalling 17kW or so with all burners going. doing some research in the internet, the large burners on induction cook tops do about 3.5kW, with less common 11" burners getting up to 4kW or so. The large burners on a gas stove do about 17500 BTU, which is about 5kW.

I could believe that the power transfers more efficiently on an induction stove as the pot itself heats up. Maybe it's enough to balance out to roughly equivalent to gas, and a 12kW induction range sounds like a nice convenience. I would bet that you aren't boiling your water as fast as you think you are relative to a gas burner though. :-)


Induction ranges are ~ 2x more energy efficient than resistive, since there’s no loss of heat between the heater coil and pan.

I just switched from gas to induction, and am consistently surprised at how cool the area around the pan stays vs. with natural gas. I’d guess the gas burner is wasting at least half the heat it puts off. A 5kW gas burner is definitely delivering less heat to the pan than a 4 kW induction burner.

Induction has other disadvantages though. The most obvious is that the bottom of the pan has to be perfectly flat, and match the burner size (at least for most burners). Lots of specialty cookware fails that requirement (magnetic or not).


Ah, cool. Looking up efficiencies, it looks like induction is about 80% vs. gas about 40%. So that puts output power at 2.5kW for a large induction burner vs 2kW for a large gas burner. So I suppose you could boil water slightly faster with a nice induction stove, assuming good heat transfer on both.

> I would bet that you aren't boiling your water as fast as you think you are relative to a gas burner though.

I moved recently to somewhere that has gas and noticed its is quite a lot slower than the induction stove I was using. The gas one seems worse in every way but initial cost.


The operating cost is generally lower for gas as well. It's certainly true where I live, where 1 kWh is seemingly something like $0.40 after all the rates, fees and taxes.

Is your gas stove in your new place nice or is it kinda cheap? I've certainly used plenty of mediocre gas burners. I would expect a high end induction stove to be a better experience than a low end gas burner. I think we can all agree that electric coil burners are terrible.


Better more precise temperature regulation, plus instant on.

yeah, it's really easy to clean if you don't wait too long.

Isn't it much more efficient to use pwm than resistors to adjust energy in that fashion?

Not to mention the digital ones are more prone to failure.

Are they? Is this studied? I have never heard of one failing and know many people with them.

The controllers fail all of the time. Many of them don’t fare well around high heat, and sometimes the capacitive panels delaminate or otherwise fail. Replacement is usually expensive. The failure point of analog controls was usually the trivially replaceable knob.

Appliance makers do a ton of reliability engineering to deliver predictable failure rates. Barring atypical screwups and bad design, major appliances tend to fall off a cliff about a year after the expiry of their extended warranty (usually 4-6 years)


We had a trade off, we mostly traded labor for parts cost, the labor to change parts is now basically trivial, but the parts are 3-4x more.

by cooking plate I mean the cooking plates in the normally sold induction stovetop, in those of course the failure is generally not on the cooking plate but the stovetop itself but that doesn't matter, once the stovetop goes you can't use a plate because it's all one big integrated appliance.

So anyway I bought a slightly above medium priced one a few years ago, and it has failed about 5 times. When we had the guy out to fix it he said that it was a common problem that the part where you have to push to start a particular plate cooking can fail to register a push anymore and as a general rule if one of the 'buttons' couldn't be pushed none of them could be pushed because after all they aren't really buttons.

I asked why is it continually failing he said oh sometimes there is some underlying electrical issue, but I think we have everything fixed now.

Anyway after the fifth breakdown in a couple years it has been going pretty good for a year now.

Now of course since an induction stovetop is one big piece, there are fewer parts that can fail. So maybe there actually is a higher failure on analog stoves, but I remember every time I had a failure on my analog stoves it was only one piece that failed, and sometimes it was easy to make it work again, like a broken knob, or it was only a partial failure like that cooking plate doesn't get as hot as it used to. When my current stovetop fails, it is all failed.

A case in point I bought a small portable two cooking plate analog stove at the same time I bought the more modern induction one. One of the cooking plates got broken some years back but the other still works. We also need it to make espresso as the pot is too light to register on the induction stovetop.

on edit: must be tired, changed in case of point to a case in point.


Honestly, I searched for a great toaster after going through a few cheap ones and I always came back to this Japanese "steam" toaster. - https://us.balmuda.com/products/balmuda-the-toaster

$300 for a toaster seems insane, but it honestly is worth it. You fill the little 5cc "cup" with water and pour it in, and it uses steam to lock in moisture and then toast. Toast (and honestly everything else) comes out perfectly crisp all over and the inside stays moist.


I have this and the Mitsubishi T0-ST-1T. Both are good. Neither are great. I miss my Breville, it seemed more consistently better than good.

Re-making these toasters is probably a great idea for a kickstarter.

But maybe redesign it so the coils can’t be live even when it is off. Because you can’t stop humans from using forks.

I grew up with one of these and was going to get an old one and refurbish it, but I live with too many hairless apes that would stick a fork or knife in to retrieve their undersized bread. Maybe if I put on a polarized plug, and check all the outlets in the kitchen to make sure they are wired correctly…


The same YouTuber has a video guide on how to update the wiring to make it safe in the way you want. Complete with grounding the body: https://youtu.be/2vcdbtAca0Y

Of course. The original sunbeam probably could not have been even made or sold today due to safety standards.

Sure it could. It'd just need a polarized, grounded plug with the ground strap tied to the body.

It also has a switch that's turned on by the weight of a slice of bread. A letter falling into the opening would slowly lower itself down and light on fire. Furthermore the thermostat is shielded by the carriage before it descends. If the carriage is jammed that could conceivably light the toast on fire before the ambient heat is high enough to trip the thermostat. This toaster has 3 main problems that could all be fixed relatively easily in a modern redesign:

1. Power switch that's prone to unintentional activation.

2. Poor grounding and a single pole switch with no polarization.

3. Radiant control without any upper time limit.


The author even mentions that in the article when he talks about purchasing used ones as gifts.

(Before giving them, I opened them up and replaced their aging power cords with modern grounded three-prong ones, as many of these predate even polarized plugs and are not remotely safe by modern electrocution prevention standards.)


Just a polarized plug would do it. That would make it so the switch is before the elements and not after.

You need the ground line too since the body of the unit is conductive and not insulated. Without a ground, you can short live to the body and have it still function in that hazardous state; with the body grounded, that short will pass current and trip the breaker.

That solves a different problem. The ground is only used if there is a short somewhere in the unit. (Potentially getting a shock from touching the toaster.)

A polarized plug prevents the elements from being a live wire.


Sure, a polarized plug and a ground mitigate different kinds of electrical hazard, but you do need both of them to mitigate all the electrical hazards that a metal-bodied kitchen appliance would otherwise present.

Why not just have a switch that cuts both wires?

Non issue. The device is so simple the Chinese will have no problem knocking it off with acceptable fit and finish. From there it's a simple matter of slapping a UL sticker on it (and I mean that in the most literal sense).

Yeah, my question after reading this is why can't I buy a modern version of this toaster? Would it be too expensive? Just seems odd.

Because the current toasters work perfectly fine and are a tiny fraction of the complexity. Anyone who wants better toast than what the toaster makes will just butter and cook the bread on a grill.

Seems like a PID could do all this and more personally. I suspect someone kickstarts exactly that in short order and then I buy one down the road after it ends up in e-tail because I never got that PID espresso maker so no more kickstarters for me.

there's a lot of clever stuff in there that would make modern regulators nervous

suspect making it compliant with modern electrical standards would be cost prohibitive


Lots of people still use the Sunbeam to this date. All you need to do is replace the wiring and the plug with safer modern versions so that it is up to electrocution safety standards.

If you want a modern-built classic style toaster check the Dualit[0]

Only problem is they've been sold out for a while now in a lot of places

[0] https://www.dualit.com/products/classic-toasters


Blogspam for a 2019 YouTube video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OfxlSG6q5Y

It's remarkably difficult to find something as automated at it.

This should be super cheap and ubiquitous tech but apparently it isn't. Most of the other stuff uses electronics and does more but is actually dumber as an overall device.

For example many can set a target duration or target temperature but because they don't take into account the bread temperature they don't defrost as well.


Serious question - do most folks still own toasters today? They just seem so... specifically single function and take up counterspace. In my house, we have a sandwich press which we use for 4 or less pieces of toast at a time. And of course it doubles as a press for paninis or cubanos, too. And you never have to worry about unevenness, as it's just two hot plates basically.

If cooking a lot of toast for a get together or really large meal, just throw them in the oven.

I haven't owned a toaster as an adult, so I'm really curious how popular they are these days.


I've had the same toaster for the better part of 15 years now I don't think its any weirder than owning a dedicated sandwich press. It's usually a set it and forget it kinda of item that doesn't take long to do its job.

I don't think it's weird at all, it was really a question out of curiosity and not meant as an insult or anything.

A quick search would have told you something like 80 percent of households own toasters.

But that would leave one lonely person with an answer, and rob us all of a scintillating discussion on a (gasp) discussion forum.

The post made me reflect on the fact that I have a toaster at all; I've used it vanishingly few times, and I only really own one because my parents have one.

Questions are seeds of a discussion; it's better to nurture them than to stomp them out.


The 80 percent figure I found was from nearly 20 years ago. It's hard to find anything more recent. Moreover, I guess what I'm most interested in is in how many people have and regularly use a toaster today, and more specifically why. The counterspace tradeoff doesn't seem worth it to me, so I'm curious about other's use cases and opinions. I apologize if my initial premise came off as condescending.

Lots of people keep their toaster hidden in a cabinet and take it out every morning then put it away.

I am struggling to think of anyone I know who does not own a toaster.

The no name toaster I own falls into the good-enough category where I have never considered that an alternative technology could offer X% improvement that it would make transitioning worthwhile. Toaster oven could potentially provide more utility (pizzas, garlic bread, etc) at a higher initial investment, more counter space, and potentially less good at toasting bagels.


Toaster oven FTW, it's probably our most used appliance. Get one with the convection setting and it'll beat any air fryer too [1].

[1] Wirecutter review: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-air-fryer/


Funnily enough, convection toaster ovens are rebranding their same old models as being air friers now. Because of course an air fryer is just a weirdly shaped convection toaster oven in the first place.

See that I understand, very versatile choice. Would you day it works better than a fullsize convection oven, or about the same?

I didn't even know there were full size convection ovens! We've got the toaster oven and a gas oven, I would say they work about the same, it's just so much more efficient to use the electric toaster oven (assuming what you're trying to cook fits in there).

I tried to make do without a toaster when I first lived on my own, because I didn’t care enough about toast to get one.

Except, originally, I didn’t get anything else that could make toast, so if I wanted toast, I used a dry frying pan. And, probably because I didn’t have a toaster, I wanted toast a lot more often than I expected I would.

I eventually got a toaster oven, but I almost never used it for anything other than toast. I have a toaster now, twenty years later, and while I realize it’s silly from one point of view, I know it’s not the silliest thing I own.


> Except, originally, I didn’t get anything else that could make toast, so if I wanted toast, I used a dry frying pan

This made me laugh out loud. Ever so often my wife decides to reorganize and put everything away, and me being too lazy to dig everything out, resort to making toast that way in a dry cast iron skillet. Not sure about yours, but mine rarely turned out right. Usually burned the raised edges and left the middle underdone.


Not to mention that that method uses many times as much energy as just using a toaster.

I never got the hang of it. If there’s a trick, I didn’t stumble across it.

I recently bought a toaster for the first time as an adult and started eating a lot more bread as a result.

Other toasting methods work, but they could take longer to set up and you have to monitor the progress along the way.

With a toaster, it is set it and forget with a single button press.


We have a toaster oven. It accommodates any size bread, and works well for frozen meals that aren't worth heating up the main oven for. I also make sourdough bread, and those slices would be hard to fit into a toaster.

This toaster was expensive when it launched, but could be considered worth the money since it would last for a long time and it seems to have a good resale price even today.

On the other hand, today it is hard to buy simple things of good quality on Amazon - example 100% cotton or 100% woolen clothes. And it would be harder in a physical superstore like Target or Walmart.


You might appreciate the BuyItForLife subreddit. The ad hoc nature can make it hard to find stuff, but the posts are generally all direct testimonial by people who have had a given item for an extended period of time.

Imagine if we had testers who take a bunch of products with them into a space apartments moving at relativistic speeds, and when ready to retire they can tell us how their products fared during their lifetime... Corporate monasticism, sacrificing one working life a month or so to create an index that helps punish corporations for poor durability...

Doesn't relativity work the other way around? Wouldn't less time pass for them if you did that?

You're right yeah. So I guess we just periodically put the rest of humanity into a relativistic-pace space-station.

there's a movie for that, but I think it would be a spoiler to name it

My wife has one of these and she's crazy about it. I'm less enthusiastic, especially since it has no protection against the outside getting hot enough to melt or burn anything carelessly put next to it. Maybe an update addressing that and some of the other issues mentioned in OP would yield a toaster that would make both of us happy.

It's also live while turned off so if you ever put a fork in it, it's deadly.

Ok I guess now is the time and place to complain to whomever cares about toaster design. Why is it that the metal grid that holds the bread has its bars so wide apart ? I don't toast only industrial square bread, I happen to regularly toast good state of the art european bakery bread that have very different slice sizes. It is maddenig to have your slice slip trhough the metal bars and prevent the toaster from going up or having to go fishing for your slice with whatever tool you think fit for the job, in 2021. Is my use case that specific ? I have been looking for a toaster with a tight grid bread holder but could not find one so far. Please help.

My partner and I were given one of these: https://www.dualit.com/products/classic-toasters

They're dead simple, and work excellently. The bars you're mentioning are single, wide and flat, so they'd support thin slices well.


Same problem! I bake a lot of my own bread and often end up with odd-shaped lumps of loaf-ends which fall between the wires.

Also I wish I could get a narrow-slot toaster. I never toast bagels, and I feel like a the ubiquitous wide-slot designs waste energy and take longer because there's so much unnecessary room for air to convection-cool the bread.


Get a commercial one https://www.webstaurantstore.com/search/toaster.html

But probably not worth the space.


Years ago I had one of these. It slowly stopped working and my wife got sick of it. Without any way to fix it I got rid of it, which I now regret. The toaster we have now browns unevenly and is wildly inconsistent from run to run.

If anyone is looking to buy one, I recently bought a restored Sunbeam T-20 from timstoasters.com and love it. He even replaced the plug with a polarized one.

What are polarised plugs? The article also mentions it but I have no idea what it is and why it's safer.

Without a polarised plug it means current can 'flow' the 'wrong' way through the toaster, backwards through the heating coils.

Which is to say when the toaster is plugged in but off, the heating coils could still be live, and touching them would shock you.


Polarized plugs have one of the prongs bigger than the other and will only fit one way into an outlet. This ensures that you actually know which wire is hot and which wire is neutral and can ensure the switch controls hot (the power source) rather than neutral (the power return).

Where exactly is the buy page? I see everything but that!

I just used the form at timstoasters.com/order and said I was looking to buy instead of restore. I agree it could be easier to find!

Thanks for the info. How was pricing? I assume it has be on the high side given the restoration.

Mine was $360 with shipping. Obviously very high compared to a new toaster, but I wouldn’t have wanted to do the wiring myself, so worth it for me.

It's high, but not unreasonably so, compared to a decent modern toaster. For example, a dualit 4 slice toaster is £200/$260. Pretty much everyone I know who has one is happy with it, and it meets modern safety standards out of the box.

Holy cow. We have one of these handed down to us. After learning how to calibrate the springs, it runs great. Didn't realize how much wealth it created for us as well.

Yeah toasters these days are crap. I always have to compensate for ambient temperature and the thing still being hot from a previous slice, thickness etc.

I'd pay more for a toaster that was smart like this one. I wonder why that's not a thing, we have smart everything else...


I have several of these and can confirm they're awesome and very satisfying to use (when they're working correctly).

>several ?

I grew up with one of these. Have always been disappointed by other toasters ever since.

> when they're working correctly

Is their toasting a bit hit or miss?


As the video discusses, they wear and the bimetallic strip wears/stretches/distorts with age and so it doesn't always actuate. There is an adjustment which can help.

I've used quite a few toasters in my years (including this one), but don't understand why, as the toaster gets older, it tends to burn toast. I've noticed this from both cheap, and not-so-cheap toasters. Any ideas what changes in a toaster over a few years of use to cause this?

I've picked up these from hard rubbish a couple of times, but they did tend to burn the toast a bit; kind of wishing I had tried to re-furbish them, now knowing how the mechanism works.


A toaster will often start to burn toast when the toaster isn't clean.

When there are a lot of food particles at the bottom that detritus can increase the heat from the heating elements. So, the best way to avoid this is to clean the appliance.


That's what I have been starting to figure, but while I can clean the bottom tray easily enough, there tends to be a build up of 'stuck-on' detritus in amongst the elements and other places that aren't really possible to clean without taking the whole thing apart.

That reminds me of this old bit of Internet humor, called "The Parable of the Toaster"[0]:

    Once upon a time, in a kingdom not far from here, a king summoned two of his advisors for a test. He showed them both a shiny metal box with two slots in the top, a control knob, and a lever. "What do you think this is?"

    One advisor, an Electrical Engineer, answered first. "It is a toaster," he said. The king asked, "How would you design an embedded computer for it?" The advisor: "Using a four-bit microcontroller, I would write a simple program that reads the darkness knob and quantifies its position to one of 16 shades of darkness, from snow white to coal black. The program would use that darkness level as the index to a 16-element table of initial timer values. Then it would turn on the heating elements and start the timer with the initial value selected from the table. At the end of the time delay, it would turn off the heat and pop up the toast. Come back next week, and I'll show you a working prototype."

    The second advisor, an IT consultant, immediately recognized the danger of such short-sighted thinking. He said, "Toasters don't just turn bread into toast, they are also used to warm frozen waffles. What you see before you is really a breakfast food cooker. As the subjects of your kingdom become more sophisticated, they will demand more capabilities. They will need a breakfast food cooker that can also cook sausage, fry bacon, and make scrambled eggs. A toaster that only makes toast will soon be obsolete. If we don't look to the future, we will have to completely redesign the toaster in just a few years."

    "With this in mind, we can formulate a more intelligent solution to the problem. First, create a class of breakfast foods. Specialize this class into subclasses: grains, pork, and poultry. The specialization process should be repeated with grains divided into toast, muffins, pancakes, and waffles; pork divided into sausage, links, and bacon; and poultry divided into scrambled eggs, hard-boiled eggs, poached eggs, fried eggs, and various omelette classes."

    "The ham and cheese omelette class is worth special attention because it must inherit characteristics from the pork, dairy, and poultry classes. Thus, we see that the problem cannot be properly solved without multiple inheritance. At run time, the program must create the proper object and send a message to the object that says, 'Cook yourself.' The semantics of this message depend, of course, on the kind of object, so they have a different meaning to a piece of toast than to scrambled eggs."

    "Reviewing the process so far, we see that the analysis phase has revealed that the primary requirement is to cook any kind of breakfast food. In the design phase, we have discovered some derived requirements. Specifically, we need an object-oriented language with multiple inheritance. Of course, users don't want the eggs to get cold while the bacon is frying, so concurrent processing is required, too."

    "We must not forget the user interface. The lever that lowers the food lacks versatility, and the darkness knob is confusing. Users won't buy the product unless it has a user-friendly, graphical interface. When the breakfast cooker is plugged in, users should see a cowboy boot on the screen. Users click on it, and the message 'Booting UNIX v.8.3' appears on the screen. (UNIX 8.3 should be out by the time the product gets to the market.) Users can pull down a menu and click on the foods they want to cook."

    "Having made the wise decision of specifying the software first in the design phase, all that remains is to pick an adequate hardware platform for the implementation phase. An Intel Pentium with 48MB of memory, a 1.2GB hard disk, and a SVGA monitor should be sufficient. If you select a multitasking, object oriented language that supports multiple inheritance and has a built-in GUI, writing the program will be a snap."

    The king wisely had the IT consultant beheaded, and they all lived happily ever after.
[0] http://www.solipsys.co.uk/new/TheParableOfTheToaster.html (Although I believe that it is even older than this)

That Electrical Engineer sounds more like a Computer Engineer.

An Electrical Engineer might possibly say do it without a digital embedded computer, and instead just use analog components. Like add the resistance of a thermistor touching the toast plus the resistance of a control knob potentiometer to trigger a poweroff which ejects the toast.


I wish I could still get a toaster that let me toast one slice at a time. If making toast, I usually just want one slice. It is wasteful to have to heat up both sides for one slice of toast.

I remember one model from a few decades ago where you could just put one slice in and push down one button to toast that. If you put in 2 slices, the other button would push both sides down to toast. I haven’t seen that feature in a long time.


Mine's a Dualit.

It's repairable (it's held together with simple screws, and you can order all the parts), it has a mechanical timer, and a simple lever to raise/lower the toast. There's also a knob to switch between left slot/both slots. No electronics, no indicator lights.

I think these things are targeted at commercial outlets (hotels, cafes and so on). I bought it because I imagined it would be ultra-reliable, and five years in I've had no problems. They cost about 3x as much as cheap toasters.


My Dualit is from 2004. It still looks and works like new.

It's a design classic. 4 slots. A wonderfully boring device that just works with no fuss.


Thanks. I’ll look for that

This actually applies to a lot of old tech and old software. The idea that old == bad is permanently seared into the brains of people. Thanks to marketing. There should be a good balance between trying out new things (new JS frameworks!) and then if it doesn't work, STOP. Modern society is moving towards criticism == bad, which leads to things like Youtube removing dislike visibility and inability to challenge ideas in a corporate setting (someone might just get offended by criticism).

My hope and expectation for society is to balance experimentation and criticism. We need both in equal amounts. A good analogy that I keep is gradient descend algorithm - if we get stuck in a local optima, unless we undo things, there is no way to improve (This is criticism). At the same time, if we don't allow picking new directions, improvement is hopeless (This is experimentation).


Ehh main problem with this is different people like their toast toasted to different levels.

Add a knob that moves the strip closer/further from the heat source. There. Done.

I have one of this toasters, it has a little knob to adjust how dark the toast needs to be.

I have also replaced the power cord.


You just described every other toaster out there.

Also more likely to burn your house down :)

But can it collect data about its user and show ads?

I absolutely hate low effort articles like this. Just restating the contents of a TikToc or in this case plagerizing a Youtube video (Technology Connections, aka Alec Watson) to generate content is lazy, even if you 'credit' the source you are stealing all your content from in some cursory way. Alec noticed something truley interesting and did many days of research and first hand investigation to build this content from scratch, this article just steals it outright and links to his YouTube video as though that makes it cool?

Does it do crumpets?!

There is definitely a market for the resurgence of some of high quality old-timey products, especially those with some novelty.

Sunbeam should literally do a Kickstarter to get the marketing going.


> Sunbeam should literally do a Kickstarter to get the marketing going.

Sunbeam products are now Chinesium trash, the brand was sold off long ago.

At my last startup we learned this the hard way after buying a Sunbeam set of knives in a butcher block for the office kitchen. Every single knife was dull and serrated identically, despite presenting in the Amazon ad as a comprehensive set of knives.



It's not like "Chainsaw Al" inherited a pristine Sunbeam and ran it into the ground:

"Allegheny's four principal divisions, including Sunbeam, went into decline through the late-1980s. Since Sunbeam-Oster was one of the most important divisions, responsible for nearly half of all sales, the stockholders were very concerned about the leadership. In 1986, the stockholders accused the Chairman and CEO, Robert Buckley of mis-appropriating funds.[10][11] Buckley's successor, Oliver Travers, downsized considerably and by 1988, the company was essentially just Sunbeam and Oster. The decline continued aided by the stock market crash of October 1987 and Allegheny filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.[12] In the fall of 1989 an investment group called Japonica Partners[13] purchased the remains of Allegheny for $250 million ($521.9 million today) in a hostile takeover.[14] The company was renamed Sunbeam-Oster Company, Inc. At this point the business was then divided into four divisions: Outdoor Products, Household Products, Specialty Products, and International Sales. The company headquarters were moved again from Pittsburgh to Providence, Rhode Island and then finally to Fort Lauderdale, Florida.[15] By late 1991, Sunbeam-Oster's sales had increased 7% enabling it to make the Fortune 500 list." [0]

It sounds to me like he was brought in to be the axe man, and he obliged, while adding some fraudulent flair to the mix. One could argue the fraud was just a best-effort attempt to turn the sinking ship around, with flagrant disregard for the law.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunbeam_Products#Growth


That wrap-sheet reads like he should have been in jail for ruining so many peoples lives. White-collar crime pays, but we all knew that already.

It would probably be easier for a new company to decide to do this than an existing company with bureaucratic cruft. And it's not like Sunbeam has any critical IP rights here, since the design is from many decades ago.

My grandparents gave me one of these and I used it for a decade or so before it stopped working. I considered trying to fix it, but with little kids on the horizon, I was concerned about the safety issues (unlike new toasters, these old ones can electrocute you). If I'd known I could have had my old one retrofitted and made safer, as other oommenters have pointed out, I'd have done that instead. At least I got 50 bucks for it on ebay though!


Yes, some ops are cruft, in which case new company could buy old company brand.

The other problem is distribution.

These things are about channel power, which is >50% of the story on both sides: manufacturing, distribution, sales, etc..

'The Product' is actually less important than the system in place that makes all of this work, at least at scale.

Ideally, this would be a subdivision of a 'well run company' with operational resources and distribution power.


Sunbeam is currently owned by Newell Brands (Carl Icahn) whose other brands include Coleman, Parker Pen, Calphalon, and First Alert.

They certainly don't need the money to kickstart a campaign, but it would be interesting to know if Kickstarter would entertain the idea of a subsidiary of Newell Brands running a marketing campaign on its platform.

Are there other large corporate brands that you know of that have launched marketing campaigns on KS?


Yes. At least for boardgames, sub-brands of billion dollar companies regularly run Kickstarters.

Why would KS have any problem with that?


Not sure.

But I've always had the impression Kickstarter was about small business entrepreneurs/solopreneurs unable or unwilling to raise capital through traditional means.

Per the KS Mission Statement, "It’s where creators share new visions for creative work with the communities that will come together to fund them."

It just seems unusual to me that a multi-billion dollar global corporation would decide after 60+ years to go back to building high-quality versions of their products, perhaps considering it to be a "new vision for creative work," not really need a community to come together to fund it, and not have KS pause to think about whether it fits with their mission.


Yes, I mean Kickstarter as a marketing tool to tap into to an engaged and authentic starter market.

I've thought about this for a while. Imagine a line of "dumb" dishwashers, toasters, ovens, stoves, microwaves, etc., all well-designed and made with sturdy materials.

Unfortunately, I think they'd cost 6-10x going rate as modern "smart" appliances, and also the market for them would be restricted to HN commenters.


Washing machines were one of the first applications for microcontrollers.

If you have an electric motor that's supposed to speed up, slow down, reverse, spin fast etc., all on a schedule, it's a no-brainer (pun intended). It's usually the pump that fails, but the controller-cards often fail too. Pumps and controller cards are, of course, outrageously expensive.

These things are supposed to fail. Back in the day, they were much more reliable. I don't think it's "smart" tech that has made them less reliable; I think they've optimised their designs over the years, so that they nowadays fail just after the warranty ends.

So what I want is kitchen equipment that is designed to last. For example, I bet they could build a washing machine that works perfectly for 30 years, for under £1,000. If they wanted to. It might not have 24 different program settings, but I only ever use one setting.

Yeah, reliable equipment probably is a bit of a nerdy preoccupation; but you'd think at least someone would have a product to appeal to that niche. But nobody seems to want to compete on reliability. That makes me wonder if there is a cartel at work.

[Edit] I actually don't mean to include Bosch in my comments about manufacturers; Bosch equipment I've had has been more reliable than other brands. But they still fail and need repairs much too often.

Re. 30 years: that's how long my mother's Hoover twin-tub continued to provide service.


There are some companies that do build long lasting appliances. For example, one can buy a Speed Queen washing machine for home, and they're supposed to be comparable with their commercial laundromat offerings. They're also 2-4x the price of a similar washing machine.

The big problem is that on the consumer side, it's pretty much impossible to evaluate durability of goods. Is the $80 toaster much more durable and better built than the $40 one, or is it just a "premium" offering that has the same internals but with a fancier appearance.


And then is it even worth thinking about which toaster will last 50 years vs 10 years when the price may as well be free for how cheap they are.

That assumes that the sticker price is the only externality. If it breaks, one has to throw away the toaster and order a new one, potentially being without toast while the new one is shipped.

For me, it's less about cost and more about not leaving a pile of cheap toasters in a landfill for future generations.


For me, there is a store I can walk to and pick up a new toaster within 200m, and I have never seen a toaster break since they are dead simple. Avoiding needless landfill is by far the most important part here but a toaster is pretty low on the priority list. Food packaging and just food production in general for a year would outweigh several lifetimes of toasters.

> Yeah, reliable equipment probably is a bit of a nerdy preoccupation;

Maybe it's a cultural thing? My extended family (both biological and in-laws) across my two countries (AU/NZ) frequently discuss what items lasted and what did not. This has led to a surprising commonality in the brands we all end up buying, and it's usually because someone bought something and it lasted, so others have bought similar, and when something isn't as good as expected, that gets mentioned as well.

There's a pretty wide range of age, political opinions and incomes as well - but caring more about reliability and long term value for money over shiny features is pretty consistent.


"Yeah, reliable equipment probably is a bit of a nerdy preoccupation"

Efficient market hypothesis summed up in once sentence


/me not an economist!

I don't see what my remark has to do with the EMH; perhaps you could explain.


Buying an old one and restoring it would probably be a better idea.

All my white goods are several decades old and still work well with occasional periodic maintenance. That's the other thing: back then, they were designed to last with maintenance; now, they're designed to be "maintenance-free" until they break completely and in a very cost-prohibitive-to-repair way.


In washing machine land, Miele and a few others make these. They are indeed very, very expensive. Mind you, adjusted for inflation, so were the old ones; there has never really been an era of cheap top-quality appliances.

But are they cheaper per year of service life?

Maybe. A standard Miele washing machine costs about £900, while a decent (but less durable) machine might cost half that or a bit less. Having done endless (eventually futile) repairs on an older washer that kept falling over out of warranty, I'd day this one at least looks like a better price per year's washing.

You also have to account for the "pain in the neck" factor. A washing machine isn't a toaster, it's heavy and hard to move, and annoying to wait on a repair person or replacement.

I have wondered too. I am on on, like, my fourth toaster. They work for a few years then fail in some non fixable way. So I toss and order another from Amazon. Think of all the material waste. Not very eco-friendly. But it’s another 30 bucks and comes next day …

Is there a market for ‘buy it for life’ toaster. The question is will people pay 2-4X as much as cheap china toaster? Would you pay $150 for a lifetime toaster with replaceable parts? Would you pay $200? Or just 20% more than the next model? Would the retro angle get people to do it? Would the eco angle? Or the ‘right to repair’ angle? Or is it just easier to toss the thing and get another from our friends in Seattle?


I got a really lovely chrome single slice from...i think the 30s or 40s on ebay for $30.

work required: completely dismantle.

soak return coil spring assembly in mineral oil.

make a new carbon contact by cutting down a motor brush

replace cord with new cloth 3 conductor (plastic didn't look right)

10 years later and still works perfectly.


Looks like Dualit toasters fit that bill somewhat. But a set of replacement elements cost several times more than a cheap toaster.

You're not likely to need a complete set: they can be replaced individually.

Mine is from about 1987, and I got it about 10 years ago on eBay. I've replaced one element card, as a result of a previous owner's dodgy repair causing arcing that eventually burned out a connector. The others look very old and are still fully functional.

Having said that, I understand the clockwork timers also fail from time to time, and they aren't especially cheap. And the toast, while very good and continuously adjustable in hue, isn't quite magnificent.


I have wondered about this. It would likely start out very expensive but could get cheaper over time if it got any traction. Would it ever be as cheap as the current crop? Unlikely.

The initial market would definitely be limited to those with an appreciation for the concept and the funds to support it but it seems possible that after establishing a niche brand known for quality and reliability you could expand beyond the early adopters.

It would be an expensive experiment though.


I hope I don't curse myself saying this, but I bought an AEG washing machine over 9 years ago and so far have never had a problem with it.

Heck, I'd settle for a mil-spec umbrella. One that you don't have to replace every season!!!

But they don't seem to exist AFAICT...


Not milspec per se : https://bluntumbrella.com.au/

Seems pretty sturdy but I am not a connoisseur of these things. We appreciated getting a particular size too.


A trip to https://www.james-smith.co.uk/ will sort you out, next time you're in London. For a suitable price, naturally!

The Weatherman Stick (or Golf) Umbrella looks like it might be BIFL. Its non collapsing, so less moving parts and has an aggressive canopy that claims it can withstand 55mph winds. I have never used it, just going on looks of how its constructed. At $69, I would hope its not a throwaway type.

https://www.weathermanumbrella.com/


Maybe less dumb and more easily repairable? Microcontrollers are great, just make a standardized component for all the things that can be unplugged and replaced and have at it. Why must we late-stage capitalism everything?

I don't think that dishwashers and related appliances are fragile or that they are too hard to repair. It's just that the brand new manufacturing cost has become so insanely cheap while human labor has become extremely expensive. So when the dishwasher finally craps out, it just isn't worth paying someone to crack it open and fix it.

Hobbyists are able to fix almost anything when they do it for fun in their free time as long as DRM isn't involved. It just isn't something that scales or can make a profit.


"Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way."

Every new dishwasher is assembled the same way; potentially, every broken dishwasher is broken in a different way, and needs some different part and different fix. (I mean, there are probably a handful of problems that account for 90% of the failures of any appliance. But still.)


OEMs mostly deal with this by grouping everything in to modules. If a chip fries, they don't bother checking every chip to find it. They just replace the entire board.

But it still requires someone to go to your house, pull the thing apart, and put the new one in which costs way more than robots in India putting the thing together almost unassisted.


It would be great to have something last so long.

But then the marketing team wouldn't be able to come up with a new redesign every 6 months.

And there would be less overall profit than building cheaper versions to fill our landfills with.

Which unfortunately means that this won't be realistic.


Thus the Kickstarter model. Pre-sell 500, do a total production run of a 1000, and when they’re gone they’re gone.

What I like most about devices like this is how robust the world is has a whole lot to do with how robust the device is.

My Grandparents had a custom camp trailer made in '74. I have it now. Grannie lived the longest and knew I loved it. BTW, she went white water kayaking the year before she died. Lived well, no regrets. I got so much from her, but I digress...

That trailer ran on propane gas. Still does, except for lighting. Originally, it had all gas lights too, but those are just a bit dangerous and I helped them replace those as a teen years ago. The rest runs on gas. Fridge, Stove, Range, Heater.

Just this year, the heater decided it needed a new thermocouple. I'll get one, clean it up a little, and it will run just fine the same way it has for all those years. The fridge works on a simple chemical solution that boils up through restricted openings, and as the material trickles down, it works to carry heat out of the fridge. That fridge does have an AC option. We've only used it once, and it was to see whether it worked, and how well. Basically, it works and isn't any better than the little gas flame needed to make the fridge work. It will run a couple weeks on a few gallons of propane, has a freezer, and works well up to a little under 110 degrees F. (Yeah, rough year)'

Over the years, I've picked up a few of these kinds of devices and I love them. Mixer, toaster, various old clocks, washer, dryer, weather instruments...

And I've had some professional experience. Older industrial machines that rely on springs, relays, R/C circuits, bimetal elements, just work.

The engineering on these is kind of a lost art in some ways. In others, we have such great material science these days! The same kind of approach might actually have serious merit.

Repair can be a challenge, until one has worked on a few. The basic ideas are broadly applicable. Once those are in mind, and a person has some mastery, these devices are like an open book!

Count me a fan. I like simple things that just do that which they are designed for.

One downside can be overall efficiency. While that counts, I can see people just choosing to live a little smaller, leaner and that can largely balance out, or at the least not be terrible. That's basically what we do.

Re: Smart home

There are very compelling possibilities. But, I am just not up for the maintenance and or the work to really hit the upper level of what can be done, not to mention it's either expensive, or takes considerable time, understanding and skill to roll one's own.

In my 30's I was wanting a lot of those things. However, as time has passed and I see the classics just work, and work, and work, and I don't see people struggling with them, odd states, modes, extras that get in the way, or one uses so seldom it's always a bigger time investment than the value derived.

Less is more in my home and life.

Professionally, that's not going to fly most of the time. And the use cases are different, returns different too.

But, there is a whole lot to be said for robust gear for living. It's simple, life can be simple, with few surprises, all of which frees time and energy for doing other things.

One last thing, and that's the idea of buying once and using for a long time, even handing the thing off to someone else to use. I like this and have employed it in my life. Saved a ton. Sure, these kinds of things are expensive, but one can chip away at things and before we know it, are pretty well equipped and it's gonna last. Worth it.

Where one is inclined to fix things up, or buy used, seeking these kinds of devices, there are deals. Many people get caught up in things like "digital toasters", and that's fine. I'm happy to pick up the good stuff while it's an option.


Poverty could be defined as an unavailability of high-quality resources.

So if the quality of the available resources goes down, that's poverty?


Shitty blogspam article that just copies the original video by Technology Connections

It absolutely is. On the other hand at least it shows the original video. Something I just watched in awe. Stunned about the ingenuity of the toaster design.

If you liked the video and didn't know about Technology Connections, I can only recommend (strongly) to go through the channel's archive: Alec mostly goes through old or somewhat intemporal stuff, so technical and editing chops aside the content really doesn't age, and I've yet to see a video from him that's not interesting nerdery.

Thanks will do. I love interesting stuff so I gladly will take a look.

Sure but I imagine it has resulted in a lot of exposure for Technology Connections.

The person doing the work gets “exposure” while the copy/pasters get free ad revenue?

Doesn’t sound like a fair shake to me


Technology Connections has a Patreon, mentioned at the end of every video.

I know, I’ve been a patreon of his for years.

That doesn’t change the fact that this website is milking his work for clicks


the original video had nothing to read. there is zero chance I would have watched it, so I am glad the article summarized it in text for me.

IMO The Verge, MKBHD, LTT, Snazzy Labs, etc are entertainment platforms, not tech reviewers. Often lacking conviction, criticism, strong opinions, technical know-how and ability to do the hardwork for objective comparisons. They spend more time polishing the video, studio neatness and thumbnails than informing the public.

They're optimized for viewership and revenue.


I understand your point but I think it's a bit of an unfair take. If you want good depth in your reviews there are a lot of smaller tech youtubers that do deeper analysis, but the issue is that most people simply won't watch a 45 minutes review of the Intel i7-12700k that actually goes in depth. On top of that financially they are incentivized to make ~15 minutes videos because the 45 minutes one cost a lot more to make and brings in a similar amount.

> They spend more time polishing the video, studio neatness and thumbnails than informing the public.

To be clear I completely agree with you, but I think it's mostly because the public (or a majority of the public) simply don't care about being informed.


Good response, I have a bias for the small channels over big production houses. LTT actually does go deeper (provide data and benchmarks), but it’s too overproduced for my taste.

No. It gives a lot of credit to the original and adds to the conversation with his own experiences with this toaster (because he bought multiples and even used them as presents).

Your adjective doesn't fit here.





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