Kids these days have it so easy. Okay, so maybe that isn’t the most original sentiment but that doesn’t make it any less true. The modern age is one of unparalleled luxury. No ancient king has ever lived as well as our average middle class citizens. We take so many technological advances for granted that describing them would be an act little more complicated than glaceing about any room in my house and naming what I see. That said, it wasn’t that long ago that phones weren’t supercomputers and the internet didn’t cater to literally every whim. But let’s go back a little further, to the time of our grandparents. It’s actually incredible to believe that the roaring 20’s were nearly a century ago. To showcase how things have changed let’s look at some common household appliances, then and now.
The first one is a bit of a cheat. Household computers didn’t even exist in the 20’s and the computers that were manufactured were strictly for academic, industrial, and scientific usage. The IBM Tabulator used punch cards to process information and required its panels to be rewired every time you wanted to change its function. These panels were removable and it wasn’t uncommon to have dozens of pre-programmed “plugboards” lying around to save time.
The 1926 Chrysler Imperial E80 boasted six-cylinders, 92 horsepower, and could go from 0 to 60 in just 20 seconds. Oh, and its retail price was somewhere around $3000.
Mowing the lawn has always been one of my least favorite chores, and that’s even with using our modern mowers that are engineered to within an inch of their frames. The Godiva mower may look odd by today’s standards but its appearance was pretty common for the time. The blades were non-adjustable and it had not forward drive. Good luck pushing it through the tall grass.
The first electronic refrigerators hit the market in the 1920’s but were considered a high-end luxury item. It wouldn’t be until after the great depression that household refrigerators became the norm.
Few appliances have changed as much as the household telephone. The rotary phones of old were normally on party lines that connected multiple households together through one landline. On the plus side, the bill was usually a flat $3 a month.
In contrast with phones, it seems toasters may be one of the least changed household appliances we still use on a daily basis. The Swinger toaster was little more than electrical wire connected to a heating element. Although there were fewer adjustable options back then, the method of toasting bread hasn’t changed that much in the last century.
If TV commericals are to be believed, vacuum cleaning technology is reinvented nearly every year. Of course that’s not really the case. This 1924 “carpet sweeper” was called the Air-way Sanitizor and was the first vacuum cleaner to feature a removable, disposable bag.
I bet many millennials would have trouble identifying the 1920’s version of this everyday appliance. What you see here is a combination washer and drier, one of the first to use electricity instead of human muscle to get the job done. I have to imagine this freed up a lot of time.
It’s hard to imagine that many of these inventions are barely over a century old. We’ve sure come a long way since then. Most of the human experience has been lived without the time-saving benefits of electrical machines. I, for one, am thrilled to be living in this age. For all its faults, at least I don’t have to manually wash my clothes or store my food in a hole in the ground.