The Corner

Whither the Toaster?

And now for the airing of grievances! Can anyone explain why there hasn’t been more progress in toaster technology? If you compare phones, cars, TVs, frozen pizza etc in, say, 1960 to similar items today, the technological improvement has been dramatic, even stunning. But not for the humble toaster. I mean today’s toasters are a little better, but not leaps and bounds better. And most of the improvements are aesthetic rather than substantive. My toaster looks like a toaster of the smartphone generation, but acts like the same sort of toaster Joe Lunchbucket used a half-century ago. Indeed, I’d bet the average person burns their toast just as much today as they did a half-century ago (reliable data on this is hard to find). I ask you: Why, man (or woman), why?

It’s not like there isn’t a market for such things. I’d wager more Americans own toasters than iPhones. It’s not like heating bread is a realm of human technological knowledge that cannot be further advanced (if such a realm exists). More plainly, it is not as if there aren’t technologies at hand today that wouldn’t improve the toasting experience if thoughtfully incorporated into a new generation of toasting devices.

You might think this is some kind of wry sarcastic post, and if it were I would now transition into a diatribe about the evils of Big Toast and how it is deliberately holding us back the way automotive industry has been (allegedly) holding back the electric car or the indestructible tire. But it’s not. I just don’t understand why toasters aren’t much, much better.

Francis Bacon said the point of science and technology is to provide for the relief of man’s estate. Well, is not toasting part of man’s estate? Has not the procurement, provision and improvement of our daily bread been at the very heart of our existence for millennia? Why then do the men in the white coats simply throw up their hands at some arbitrary line on the toasting map and say, “this far but no farther?” Be there monsters beyond this point? Would a more efficiently heated pop tart be too much for man to handle? Is promethean fire now conducted through the coils of a toaster? 

I seek only answers, and perhaps unburnt bagel.

UPDATE: A colleague says I need to get out more and send me a link to this very futuristic-looking toaster. It even has a bagel function! Feh, I say. In my experience there are plenty of toasters that make claims such as these. But, other than a wider slot for bagels, and some shiny indicator panels, it’s still the same old technology. I want sensors that cut off the heating process when the bagel is poised to burn. I want memory functions for different members of the family. I want it all, you hear me, I want it all. And even then I want to be surprised, nay, I want to be dazzled. 

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