I remember my mother’s state-of-the-art Twin Tub washing machine; it was such a huge improvement on what she had had to use before there was much excitement when it arrived. The mangle could be dispensed with but you had to lift the soaking wet clothes from the washing tub across to the spinner – water everywhere. That was of course if you had managed to secure the rubber hoses to the appropriate taps and ensure the drainage hose was over the bath. Thankfully the ‘white goods’ industry today provides machines which are better, more efficient, better for the environment, more cost–effective than those my parents had to contend with and they can be plumbed in! But with the advantages has come unnecessary complexity.
One of the simplest machines we have in the kitchen is our indispensable toaster. When the last one died about four years ago, choosing its replacement was complex. Did we want a long one, one that could take thick bread slices, two pieces or four, a coloured one costing 200% more than a standard cream or metal? The one we bought has a dial to determine how toasted we want to the bread, numbered 1- 6: one doesn’t make any difference and 6 creates cinders! Mind you it has to cope with a slice of San Francisco Sourdough from the freezer so a difficult challenge. I have only just read the label on the side – and it tells me I should have removed it four years ago!
Down stairs in the utility cupboard is a plumbed-in washing machine from Herr Bosch. We generally use one programme on the basis it’s almost the shortest – 60 minutes (Note 1). It’s not as short as the ‘briefly worn refresh’ although if you use this programme you have to subsequently spin the clothes and the shortest spin time is 22 minutes, so what’s the point? What’s the point of the 30 different programmes you can choose? Well, not actually 30 but a lot; hands up who changes the programme for a ‘special’ more than once a year.
So can I not buy a simpler and therefore cheaper machine? These days I understand the focus on the environment and try to do my bit. However, I think only a research mathematician could work out whether the 2 hours 30 minutes ‘eco’ cycle is better for the environment. The variables are inter alia the amount of water used, the temperature of the water, the cost of the electricity (note 2), the amount of wear & tear using it for twice as long as a standard cycle; does my head in even thinking about it!
There is an ‘eco’ cycle on our dishwasher, another of Herr Bosch’s products, and it’s the same deal here. The programme runs for over two hours – just to wash some cutlery, plates, mugs and glasses. If the machine is relatively full, how long would it have taken me to wash and dry that lot by hand? Twenty minutes maximum? So we chose the same programme every time, just a 30 minute wash and dry; couldn’t I buy a dishwasher with an on/off switch that would just er! wash the crockery?
We have a microwave, our third Bosch! It has a digital clock, various buttons and settings, and a ‘start’ button. Ninety-nine per cent of the time we put something in, adjust the time and press start. What all the other buttons do I have no idea!
Can I use the expression ‘in the old days’ without sounding like a dinosaur? Even writing it is bad enough, but you may remember when you couldn’t control your television remotely. To switch it on you had to press a button on the set itself; changing channels required you to get up off your arse and stagger to within reach of the set. Mind you there were only two channels so you weren’t conflicted by too much choice – “It’s this, or this!” Televisions grew deeper as the Cathode Ray tube got bigger and bigger; now, thankfully, they had got thinner and thinner. I am going to make no comment on their size, believing you need to have one you can view without pushing yourself back into the wall. A neighbour across the garden has one so big we could sit and watch it from our hall.
Recorder, Television and DVD Player remote controls
But it’s the remote control that intrigues me; there are 47 buttons. Normally I use the on/off, the source, the channel selector, the volume control, the button that gives me access to the non-terrestrial stations like Netflix and BBC iPlayer and their associated pause/play/stop, the mute and the ‘return’; a total of 10. I must be missing out big time being so unadventurous; I often wonder what the blue button’s for! The control for the Freeview Box has a similar number and most have a coating of dust.
Don’t get me wrong, domestic machines have changed our lives beyond measure; I admire the way our digital world is progressing and thank the boffins for designing this and that and the other. It’s just a plea for a little common sense when someone says we could design the programme to do this ….. and that …. without someone questioning whether anyone would use it.
Richard 28th January 2022
Note 1 When it finishes it bleeps. Sometimes I am willing it to finish as I am in a hurry to do something else, after hanging up the clothes. The timer shows 2 minutes ……. sometimes this two minutes can be 5!
Note 2 Most people have no idea what electricity tariff they are on. They probably did when they signed up five years ago, but have a vague memory that Wayne called and offered a slightly better tariff and now you really don’t know. So putting the dishwasher or washing machine on at 0300 might, or might not, make a difference. And living in a building with other apartments, isn’t it inconsiderate to have your jeans spinning around at 1200 rpm with the machine wobbling and about to take off, making a lot of noise?