Since the mid-1800s, people have been thinking of new and innovative ways to store food, cook food and clean up after eating food. Kitchen appliances were invented in order to make life easier when doing just these things.4 Many of these ideas blossomed in to the appliances that we know and use today. Even so, people are still trying to come up with ways to make the kitchen even more user-friendly than it already is.
The main appliances that people think of when thinking about a kitchen are the stove, refrigerator, dishwasher, and microwave—and comparatively to the other appliances, the microwave is relatively new. The first appliance to come about was the modern stove. It was one of the few appliances that could be used without electricity. Jordan Mott invented the first practical coal oven in 1833. Mott’s oven was called the base-burner. The oven had ventilation to burn the coal efficiently. The coal oven was cylindrical and made of heavy cast iron with a hole in the top.3 The first practical refrigerating machine was built by Jacob Perkins in 1834; it used ether in a vapor compression cycle. An American physician, John Gorrie, built a refrigerator based on Oliver Evans’ design in 1844 to make ice to cool the air for his yellow fever patients. German engineer Carl von Linden, patented not a refrigerator but the process of liquifying gas in 1876 that is part of basic refrigeration technology.2
Josephine Cochran invented the first practical dishwasher. Josephine Cochran had expected the public to welcome the new invention, which she unveiled at the 1893, World’s Fair, but only the hotels and large restaurants were buying her ideas. It was not until the 1950s, that dishwashers caught on with the general public.1
And Percy Spencer invented the first microwave oven after World War II from radar technology developed during the war. Named the “Radarange”, it was first sold in 1947. Raytheon later licensed its patents for a home-use microwave oven that was first introduced by Tappan in 1955, but these units were still too large and expensive for general home use. The countertop microwave oven was first introduced in 1967 by the Amana Corporation, which was acquired in 1965 by Raytheon.5
Today appliances have both grown and gotten smaller in size. The refrigerators have grown to accommodate the growing family sizes and the microwaves have become more compact, safe, and efficient. There can be multiple ovens in a kitchen to cook more food at a time and there can often be multiple dishwashers to accommodate the ever-growing piles of dishes. As people push for more and more convenient appliances, the industry tries to respond.
Currently, there are a couple of products on the market by GE, Whirlpool, and LG that are example of this response. There are now refrigerators, ovens, dishwashers, and washer/dryers all with Wi-Fi connecting capabilities. Whirlpool has a dishwasher that will send notifications to your phone when a cycle finishes and LG has a refrigerator that can come up with recipe suggestions based on the inventory of the fridge (if you manually input the grocery choices).6 Most of the Wi-Fi enabled appliances allow you to run diagnostic checks on the appliance to make sure it is running efficiently or to determine what a problem is, if there is one. One company, Ocado, has a futuristic concept fridge that has nano-tile shelving that can move around on its own to shift food to the front of the fridge based on scanned barcode dates.7 While these advances in technology are certainly both useful and convenient, we think that there are even more advances that can and will be made to kitchen appliances in the future to really epitomize what a “convenient” appliance is.
Enter the smart phone and all of the wonderful apps that come along with it. As one can often hear people saying, “There’s an app for that”, we think that this will become even more true in the next generation of kitchen equipment. We think that fully smart phone controlled appliances are the wave of the future. We envision refrigerators that have the ability to track the freshness of food through both manual input and internal scanners. This information would be sent to your smart phone and you would be alerted to its impending expiry date. It could send recipes to your phone based on inventory and your phone would become your new cookbook.
Temperature control for both the refrigeration side and freezer sides of the appliance could be controlled through the app and alerts to change the water filter would be sent to you as well. We envision ovens that can be controlled through your smart phone app—allowing the user to preheat an oven while on their way home from work. It would also allow the user to control temperature from a distance, so that if a meal required a temperature change half way through, a simple click on the phone’s app would be all that was required. We envision dishwashers that can be set through the same phone app, so that if you forget the run the dishwasher before bed, you wouldn’t have to go back downstairs to set it. Even washer/dryer combinations that are fully controllable through an app—complete with all cycle options and alerts when the cycles are completed.
In a society where it is becoming rarer for families to have sit down dinners together every night and where time is of utmost importance, a more convenient kitchen is a far more useful one. Having made it that much easier to function in the kitchen, these appliances may even inspire more home-cooked meals, more family time, and an overall happier family unit.
Written by Lauren Laracuente & Yen Min Lin
Sketches by Yen Min Lin
- Bellis, Mary. “Dishwasher – Josephine Cochran.” About.com Inventors. About.com, 05 Mar. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.
- Bellis, Mary. “The History of the Refrigerator – and Freezer.” About.com Inventors. About.com, 05 Mar. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.
- Bellis, Mary. “Oven – History of the Oven from Cast Iron to Electric.” About.com Inventors. About.com, 05 Mar. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.
- “Home Appliances.” How Home Appliances Have Changed in 70 Years from The People History Site. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.
- “Microwave Oven.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 22 Apr. 2014. Web. 28 Apr. 2014.
- “Control These Large Smart Appliances with Your IPhone – CNET.” CNET. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.
- “Smart Self-Cleaning Fridge Orders Food & Suggests Recipes.” Dornob Smart SelfCleaning Fridge Orders Food Suggests Recipes Comments. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Apr. 2014.