50 years of household essentials & missed potential

For every successful, innovative product or gadget there are at least another 10 that didn’t take off. Sometimes inventions come along and solve five problems at once, while others attempt to deal with problems nobody knew they had. There have been many technology hits and misses over the last 50 years. Take a look through to see some of the best, and worst.

1960

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Countertop Microwave

A cooking revolution for impatient people.

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Countertop Microwave

A cooking revolution for impatient people.

When the first domestic microwaves were released in Britain in 1959, they were heavy and very expensive. At the start of the decade, few people owned them and they were viewed as a luxury item. As the popularity of freezers and ready meals grew towards the end of the 1960s, the microwave became more of an everyday sight in home kitchens. Today over 80% of UK households own a microwave. This technology has become almost essential in the modern kitchen.

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The Cat-Mew Machine

Ironically, this didn’t turn out to be the cat’s meow.

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The Cat-Mew Machine

Ironically, this didn’t turn out to be the cat’s meow.

Designed to instil fear into the hearts and minds of the rodent population, the Cat-Mew Machine was powered by a 2-watt motor and plugged into the wall. The device was capable of emitting an approximation of a ‘meow’ up to 10 times a minute. Each ‘meow’ was accentuated by the bright red flashing eyes. Despite being responsible for a good few bad dreams (probably), this intense nightmare machine didn’t find a permanent place in our homes.

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The Cat-Mew Machine

Ironically, this didn’t turn out to be the cat’s meow.

Designed to instil fear into the hearts and minds of the rodent population, the Cat-Mew Machine was powered by a 2-watt motor and plugged into the wall. The device was capable of emitting an approximation of a ‘meow’ up to 10 times a minute. Each ‘meow’ was accentuated by the bright red flashing eyes. Despite being responsible for a good few bad dreams (probably), this intense nightmare machine didn’t find a permanent place in our homes.

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Countertop Microwave

A cooking revolution for impatient people.

When the first domestic microwaves were released in Britain in 1959, they were heavy and very expensive. At the start of the decade, few people owned them and they were viewed as a luxury item. As the popularity of freezers and ready meals grew towards the end of the 1960s, the microwave became more of an everyday sight in home kitchens. Today over 80% of UK households own a microwave. This technology has become almost essential in the modern kitchen.

1970

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The Food Processor

The essential kitchen technology for liquefying food.

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The Food Processor

The essential kitchen technology for liquefying food.

The first food processor was exhibited in Paris in the early 70s; ‘Le Magi-Mix’ was an instant success. The idea was picked up and refined by a number of companies, and soon there were a variety of versions available to 1970s consumers. These modern designs included the 16-speed blender available in three of the most fashionable colours of the time: white, parsley green or curry yellow. This time saving device is still used in a huge majority of kitchens today. New models and designs promising to be the best food processor available are released every year.

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The
Teasmade

Because the kitchen is too far from your bed.

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The Teasmade

Because the kitchen is too far from your bed.

The Teasmade was the cutting edge in home technology in 1970. The machine consisted of an alarm clock, teapot and kettle. At a set time, the kettle would begin boiling, once boiled the water would then transfer into the teapot. When the alarm clock went off, there was a fresh cup of tea waiting next to the bed. Nearly two million households once owned one of these contraptions, but as the UK began to prefer a morning coffee, their popularity declined. These days boiling water is mostly kept in the kitchen. Although the Teasmade does still have a very niche following, it hasn’t stood the test of time.

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The Teasmade

Because the kitchen is too far from your bed.

The Teasmade was the cutting edge in home technology in 1970. The machine consisted of an alarm clock, teapot and kettle. At a set time, the kettle would begin boiling, once boiled the water would then transfer into the teapot. When the alarm clock went off, there was a fresh cup of tea waiting next to the bed. Nearly two million households once owned one of these contraptions, but as the UK began to prefer a morning coffee, their popularity declined. These days boiling water is mostly kept in the kitchen. Although the Teasmade does still have a very niche following, it hasn’t stood the test of time.

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The Food Processor

The essential kitchen technology for liquefying food.

The first food processor was exhibited in Paris in the early 70s; ‘Le Magi-Mix’ was an instant success. The idea was picked up and refined by a number of companies, and soon there were a variety of versions available to 1970s consumers. These modern designs included the 16-speed blender available in three of the most fashionable colours of the time: white, parsley green or curry yellow. This time saving device is still used in a huge majority of kitchens today. New models and designs promising to be the best food processor available are released every year.

1980

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The first mobile phones

Is there one less than a meter away from you?

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The first mobile phones

Is there one less than a meter away from you?

Ofcom reports that in 2016 over 90% of adults in the UK own a mobile phone, and over 70% of those are smartphones. Back in 1983 when Motorola released the first ever commercial mobile phone, it offered 30 minutes of talk-time, six hours on standby and had enough memory to store up to 30 phone numbers. It was quite pricey though at £2639. 30 years later and the mobile phone is now a multi-tasking device most of us have within arm’s reach all day, every day.

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The
Pocket TV

Back in the 1980s, you needed really big pockets.

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The Pocket TV

Back in the 1980s, you needed really big pockets.

Although you could argue it was before it’s time, the available technology hadn’t quite caught up with this idea. The analogue signal could be difficult to pick up on your home TV set, so trying to pick up a signal on the move with a portable TV set was always going to be tricky. Today nobody is carrying around a mini television set in their pocket, but smartphones have turned this idea into useable technology.

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The Pocket TV

Back in the 1980s, you needed really big pockets.

Although you could argue it was before it’s time, the available technology hadn’t quite caught up with this idea. The analogue signal could be difficult to pick up on your home TV set, so trying to pick up a signal on the move with a portable TV set was always going to be tricky. Today nobody is carrying around a mini television set in their pocket, but smartphones have turned this idea into useable technology.

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The first mobile phones

Is there one less than a meter away from you?

Ofcom reports that in 2016 over 90% of adults in the UK own a mobile phone, and over 70% of those are smartphones. Back in 1983 when Motorola released the first ever commercial mobile phone, it offered 30 minutes of talk-time, six hours on standby and had enough memory to store up to 30 phone numbers. It was quite pricey though at £2639. 30 years later and the mobile phone is now a multi-tasking device most of us have within arm’s reach all day, every day.

1990

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The internet

None of us would be here without it.

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The internet

None of us would be here without it.

From cat pictures and selfies to online shopping and banking, the internet is now an integral part of modern life. The dot-com boom in the 90s saw businesses capitalising on this new technology by building their own websites. The internet revolutionised many peoples’ lives, providing one of, if not the greatest advance in communication in human history. Today, around 3.5 billion people have access to the internet .

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The Microwave bank

Not all technology from the dot-com boom of the 90s was cooking with gas.

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The Microwave bank

Not all technology from the dot-com boom of the 90s was cooking with gas.

Have you ever wished you could pay your bills on the same device that’s heating up your dinner? If the speedy cooking times of the microwave still left you a little impatient, this tech meant you could multitask while heating up your meal for one. Offering online banking, as well as television, shopping and recipe suggestions, you could really make the most of those two and a half minutes. Despite the later invention of the internet fridge, in the 1990s, banking while cooking didn’t really whet anyone’s appetite. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, this radioactive invention never quite took off.

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The Microwave bank

Not all technology from the dot-com boom of the 90s was cooking with gas.

Have you ever wished you could pay your bills on the same device that’s heating up your dinner? If the speedy cooking times of the microwave still left you a little impatient, this tech meant you could multitask while heating up your meal for one. Offering online banking, as well as television, shopping and recipe suggestions, you could really make the most of those two and a half minutes. Despite the later invention of the internet fridge, in the 1990s, banking while cooking didn’t really whet anyone’s appetite. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, this radioactive invention never quite took off.

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The internet

None of us would be here without it.

From cat pictures and selfies to online shopping and banking, the internet is now an integral part of modern life. The dot-com boom in the 90s saw businesses capitalising on this new technology by building their own websites. The internet revolutionised many peoples’ lives, providing one of, if not the greatest advance in communication in human history. Today, around 3.5 billion people have access to the internet .

2000

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The Kindle

You can carry around 3,500 books you’ll never actually read.

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The Kindle

You can carry around 3,500 books you’ll never actually read.

The Kindle wasn’t the first technology of its kind, but it is undoubtedly the most successful. With a vast library of over 1.5 million titles available, the Kindle has, for some, revolutionised reading, making books more readily accessible. The Kindle has freed up shelf space in our homes and lightened the load in our suitcases. Reading on your morning commute is now easier than ever.

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The TwitterPeek

Because there’s no other portable device compatible with Twitter.

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The TwitterPeek

Because there’s no other portable device compatible with Twitter.

The TwitterPeek is a $200 device that does nothing but sends Tweets. While there is some merit in a device only doing one thing, and doing it perfectly, reviews of the TwitterPeek don’t seem very promising. Twitter is essentially a text messaging-based service, meaning you can use it from any mobile phone, not just smartphones. With the proliferation of mobile phones mentioned earlier, there doesn’t seem to be a need for a device that costs the same, yet only has one function.

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The TwitterPeek

Because there’s no other portable device compatible with Twitter.

The TwitterPeek is a $200 device that does nothing but sends Tweets. While there is some merit in a device only doing one thing, and doing it perfectly, reviews of the TwitterPeek don’t seem very promising. Twitter is essentially a text messaging-based service, meaning you can use it from any mobile phone, not just smartphones. With the proliferation of mobile phones mentioned earlier, there doesn’t seem to be a need for a device that costs the same, yet only has one function.

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The Kindle

You can carry around 3,500 books you’ll never actually read.

The Kindle wasn’t the first technology of its kind, but it is undoubtedly the most successful. With a vast library of over 1.5 million titles available, the Kindle has, for some, revolutionised reading, making books more readily accessible. The Kindle has freed up shelf space in our homes and lightened the load in our suitcases. Reading on your morning commute is now easier than ever.

2010

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Smart thermostats

Giving you remote access to your central heating so you don’t have to think about it.

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Smart thermostats

Giving you remote access to your central heating so you don’t have to think about it.

With so many of us constantly on mobile phones, it made sense to inventors to use this technology to improve another aspect of our lives. Smart thermostat technology, like that used in tado°, uses information sent from smartphones to automatically set central heating systems to our preferences. Its super intelligent software learns your daily routine and heating preferences, automatically switching your heating on and off as you come and go.

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Quirky Egg Minder

Make sure you know everything about the eggs in your kitchen.
 

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Quirky Egg Minder

Make sure you know everything about the eggs in your kitchen.

This is an egg tray, fitted with LED lights, that connects wirelessly to your smartphone. The device sends you push notifications to tell you how many eggs you have left in your kitchen, and which of them is the oldest. The tray holds 14 eggs and is battery powered. In the product video released by Quirky, they describe it as, ‘the height of laziness’ and ‘superfluous’. The Internet of Things hasn’t quite cracked it with this one.

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Quirky Egg Minder

Make sure you know everything about the eggs in your kitchen.

This is an egg tray, fitted with LED lights, that connects wirelessly to your smartphone. The device sends you push notifications to tell you how many eggs you have left in your kitchen, and which of them is the oldest. The tray holds 14 eggs and is battery powered. In the product video released by Quirky, they describe it as, ‘the height of laziness’ and ‘superfluous’. The Internet of Things hasn’t quite cracked it with this one.

Close

Smart thermostats

Giving you remote access to your central heating so you don’t have to think about it.

With so many of us constantly on mobile phones, it made sense to inventors to use this technology to improve another aspect of our lives. Smart thermostat technology, like that used in tado°, uses information sent from smartphones to automatically set central heating systems to our preferences. Its super intelligent software learns your daily routine and heating preferences, automatically switching your heating on and off as you come and go.

Future

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Connected homes

Streamlining your whole life.

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Connected homes

Streamlining your whole life.

Technology is edging its way into all parts of our lives. Some of this tech is superfluous, but the majority of it will help make our lives easier. Our homes will start working for us, sending us notifications and alerts when something isn’t quite right. There is technology available that’s already pretty smart. LeakBot is a clever little device that you simply clip onto your water supply pipe to detect hidden leaks before they become an issue. The device alerts you of a leak via a message on your smartphone. Kitchen appliances you can control with your smartphone are already on the market. In the not so distant future, this technology will only improve, and you’ll be able to control everything in your home from your mobile device.

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Wearable tech: Smart rings

Beautiful maybe. Useful? Probably not.

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Wearable tech: Smart rings

Beautiful maybe. Useful? Probably not.

Technologically advanced jewellery is fairly common now, and as the majority of it is designed to monitor fitness levels, the advantages are clear. So could smart rings be the future? This ring allows you to control some of your phone’s settings by simply tapping or swiping the surface of the ring. Unless you have unusually dexterous fingers, you’ll be using your opposite hand to make these gestures. Essentially, the smart ring lets you control your phone remotely with two hands instead of holding and controlling it with one.

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Wearable tech: Smart rings

Beautiful maybe. Useful? Probably not.

Technologically advanced jewellery is fairly common now, and as the majority of it is designed to monitor fitness levels, the advantages are clear. So could smart rings be the future? This ring allows you to control some of your phone’s settings by simply tapping or swiping the surface of the ring. Unless you have unusually dexterous fingers, you’ll be using your opposite hand to make these gestures. Essentially, the smart ring lets you control your phone remotely with two hands instead of holding and controlling it with one.

Close

Connected homes

Streamlining your whole life.

Technology is edging its way into all parts of our lives. Some of this tech is superfluous, but the majority of it will help make our lives easier. Our homes will start working for us, sending us notifications and alerts when something isn’t quite right. There is technology available that’s already pretty smart. LeakBot is a clever little device that you simply clip onto your water supply pipe to detect hidden leaks before they become an issue. The device alerts you of a leak via a message on your smartphone. Kitchen appliances you can control with your smartphone are already on the market. In the not so distant future, this technology will only improve, and you’ll be able to control everything in your home from your mobile device.