If you have vivid memories of your grandmother’s kitchen, your visions are likely filled with the early versions of kitchen gadgets like stoves, ranges and microwaves. But technology has made a dramatic impact on the kitchen experience. Here are three ways kitchen appliances have taken a dramatic technological turn over time.
Microwaves are an Accidental Discovery
The microwave has been around since 1945, but this small kitchen appliance looks a lot different today than it did back then. The microwave was actually an accidental invention by Perry Spencer, who was working for Raytheon at the time and noticed a candy bar melted in his pocket while he was working on magnetrons for radar sets. Raytheon capitalized on Spencer’s luck and filed a patent on the concept in October of 1945.
The earliest microwaves were bulky and generally only used in commercial applications. The first microwave intended for home use was introduced in 1967 by Amana, a division of Raytheon. But these early models were so large and expensive that they weren’t practical – or affordable – by many families at the time. In 1971, microwaves got a little smaller, and a little cheaper. Around that time other manufacturers started to join in the quick-cooking trend by introducing microwaves.
Stoves and Ovens Have Long-Standing Roots
Cooking stoves and ovens are built on a concept that’s been around since early civilization. Even early settlers used some form of a primitive oven to bake breads and other goods. These stoves were generally made from cast iron and used wood or coal as a heat source, as the first alternative to simply cooking on an open fire.
By the end of the 19th Century, gas became a more commonly used heat source for stoves. Gas stoves had a number of advantages over coal and wood-burning stoves, such as a cooler surface and a smaller size, which was more practical for kitchens. Electric stoves emerged around the turn of the century, eventually taking over even gas as the most common fuel source for home cooking.
But even electric stoves have made major transitions since their original introduction. Today’s electric stoves – and even gas stoves – are equipped with technology that makes them easy to control. Membrane switches eventually replaced the temperature-control knobs of early electric stoves.
Membrane switches are seamless, textured keypads that make it simple to control the functions of the appliance. Like the white porcelain enameled surfaces common to modern stoves and the flat-top stoves of today that replace standard stovetop burners, membrane switches are easy to clean – they don’t collect crumbs and other debris that can lead to bacteria growth.
Smart Refrigerators Do Everything But Take Out the Trash
Refrigerators are another mainstream kitchen appliance that has undergone a serious technological evolution. In the earliest forms, refrigerators were simply ice chests. Over time, people found ways to add insulation that would keep the ice from melting for longer periods.
Artificial refrigeration has actually been around for quite some time, however. The first artificial refrigeration was introduced back in 1748 by Dr. William Cullen. Still, the first real machine to utilize artificial refrigeration wasn’t introduced until 1834 by Jacob Perkins.
General Electric unveiled the first consumer refrigerator in 1911 – and not long after, in 1918, the first refrigerator with some type of automated control was introduced. In the 1920s and 1930s, the idea of freezers caught attention, and by 1940 frozen food storage was commonplace in homes. There have been various refrigeration techniques utilized for consumer and commercial refrigerators over the years.
Today’s most advanced refrigerators have built-in ice and filtered water dispensers, digital clocks with timers and alarms, touch-screens, grocery list functionality, and even built-in applications and programs to decipher the contents of your refrigerator and provide access to recipes. Many modern refrigerators also use some form of membrane switches as user interfaces.
Today’s kitchens look dramatically different than they did even just a few decades ago. Technological advancements have turned what used to be simple appliances into high-tech, fully functional gadgets that completely transform consumer lifestyles.
Nicole Enwright contributes on behalf of Pannam, http://www.pannam.com/membrane-switches, to a variety of tech and new gadget blogs to help users find the product they need.