In thirty years of living

by francine Hardaway on May 13, 2004

In thirty years of living in a home, I have never seen my appliances. I’ve bought them, I’ve used them, I’ve even sworn at them when they didn’t work properly. But I have never been present to them. They were white, square, and plain, they were upright or canister, they were GE or Hoover. They were the cheapest ones I could buy; it’s kind of like spending a lot of money on underwear when you are not having an affair. However, the latest set of additiona to my household have revealed to me that appliances have finally entered the stage where they can interest me –indeed, the fascinate me, and make me spend money. I’ve given up cotton for leather and lace.. Why? Because appliances have entered the age of technology.

In 1996, when I was at Intel, we had a dream about the smart home — a home in which the refrigerator spoke to the PC, saying things like “We’re out of milk, let’s go online and order some.” Intel’s tag line at the time was “PC everywhere”, and its vision was of the home network that connected all the appliances. thought this was hilarious and that no one would ever care. Man, was I ever wrong.

I recently sold my high rise condominium in Esplanade Place, where everyone has multiple plasma screens and SubZero refrigerators, and housekeepers to use them, and rejoined the working class in a fifty year old fix-up. (The story of how my dogs got evicted from Esplanade Place after fighting every other animal in the building is for another time). The first thing I did was set up my wireless network. The second thing I did was buy a plasma screen for over my office desk. After that, I put my yard sprinklers on a digital timer ( the dashboard for it looks like my car’a).. And then I went to Home Depot to buy the next white cheap washer and dryer.

However, at the end of the aisle, waiting for me, was the magnificent Maytag Neptune, a futuristic looking set of machines twice as expensive as any others, in which the washer and dryer communicate with each other, and the washer doesn’t have anything in the middle that spins around. Instead, the washer is a big open space inside, with another digital dashboard. You can choose from a dozen choices of load, including bulky items. (The story about the time my washer in Esplanade Place overflowed because we put a comforter in it that got wound around the center post and the water ruined my maple hardwood floor is for another time.) Then you shut the top, the machine begins to hum, and your wash is done without all that shaked rattle and roll. While my old washer used to dance itself into the middle of the room during the spin cycle, this boy stays put. Because it doesn’t dance, it uses less soap, water, and electricity.

Somewhere in that almost inaudible hum is a communication between washer and dryer that helps the dryer know what’s coming to be dried, and that allows the dryer to set itself with just a bit of help from the operator. This assures that clothing will no longer be decapitated, wrinkled, shrunk, ripped, or lost in the dryer. These appliances are immune to pilot error; they are self-diagnosing and self-healing, or the closest things to it. I can almost imagiine the next generation, with is robotic arms handing the laundry from washer to dryer.

I have to admit I didn’t have the space to get the most awesome device: the laundry center, in which clothese simply hang or lay flat while they dry. But I am truly looking forward to my next fixer-upper, where I will plan for a laundry room into which this magnificent machine will fit.

I thought I was done. Tthen I called my daughter, who had just bought a Dyson vacuum cleaner; the first true advance in this particular technology in a hundred years. Of course I had to have one, although it cost $600, and my old vacuum, from Costco, was $60. Of course my old one didn’t pick up anything, but I had never notices. When the Dyson arrived and I opened the box, I actually ooh-ed and aaah-ed. It was gorgeous. It was spiritual. It was purple! (The Dyson Animal model, with the special attachment for pet hair is purple, while the run of the mill Dyson is only bright yellow).

Completely assembled, it’s bagless, with lots of attachments that fit in clever compartments on the upright. It even has a carpet cleaner. But the two greatest features are how it empties (the bottom drops out of the clear bagless part and the dirt goes right into the garbage without human intervention) and the way it sucks up dirt (it’s strong enough to eat the fringes off my Oriental rugs if I let it, and it takes up ALL the pet hair — even that which is left after the rugs have been “professionally” cleaned).

The Dyson, which is made in the UK, is such a tremendous success that my business partner wanted to borrow it. He brought it back in awe.

I know what you’re thinking: she should go back to writing about India or semiconductors or outsourcing. Well, she will. But now she’s going to look at refrigerators. No sense wasting that wireless network.

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