When Americans Dreamed of Kitchen Computers

The kitchen may be the heart of the home, but it has always represented a lot of work. The last century or so has given us a continuous race to make that work easier with modern gadgets designed to cook and clean. Since the dawn of the computer age, the idea of a kitchen computer has been tried over and over, with little success. The first one was offered in 1969.

As depicted in this colorful advertisement, the sleek, enormous Honeywell Kitchen Computer would have commanded attention in any kitchen. But it did not actually cook dinner. Rather, its functions included storing recipes, meal planning, and balancing the family checkbook. Though marketed towards housewives, it was very impractical. The advertising campaign’s tagline “If she can only cook as well as Honeywell can compute!” sought to hide that the Honeywell Kitchen Computer was merely a complicated digital recipe-card box and a calculator.

The department store Neiman Marcus sold the Honeywell Kitchen Computer as a luxury item, pricing it at a kingly $10,600 (around $78,000 today). Buying the computer made little economic sense for the target audience, and required a 2-week coding course on how to properly use the 16 buttons on the front panel. There’s no evidence that anybody actually purchased one.

That was only the first of a series of ideas to get computers into the modern kitchen. But what could a computer actually do in the kitchen that wouldn’t take up valuable room and cost more than it’s worth? In the end, the solution turned out to be pretty simple. We have a few computerized systems that run through the whole house, for things like energy consumption and security, but getting a computer to help in the kitchen is as easy as making that computer small and portable. My daughter cooks with a recipe displayed on a computer screen while music plays …on her iPhone. Read a short history of kitchen computers at Atlas Obscura.

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Source: neatorama

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