The History of Home Technology
December 29, 2020
It might seem as if home automation technology has just popped up out of nowhere in the last five years, and it has! However, home tech is much more than just smart home technology. Home tech has been the fantasy of sci-fi writers and filmmakers long before it became a reality.
Home tech is so much more than simply using an Amazon Alexa or having automatic blinds that adjust according to the time of day. Home tech stretches far back in American and world history far past the invention of smart devices to some of the simple amenities that are taken for granted today. You might not be able to imagine a time where you couldn’t find a touchless car wash, but as is the case with all technology, home tech wasn’t always around the way it is today, and neither was auto detailing.
The following article is a look way back at the history of home tech and its impact on the American household as well as some pros and cons of smart home tech.
The Remote Control
The TV remote that you can never find can be traced all the way back to 1898…no wonder you can’t find it! It was in 1898 that Nikola Tesla made the first remote control, which he used to run a toy boat. It was through the use of radio waves that Tesla was able to make the boat receive information from the control. To put Tesla’s invention into a historical context, Tesla’s remote control came just twenty years after the invention of x-rays.
The Appliances Themselves
Before we could have a smart oven, we first needed the appliances themselves. To the modern American basic large kitchen and home, appliances are a staple of the American home. This, however, was not always the case. It wasn’t until the 1900s with the invention of the engine-powered vacuum that the basic home appliances we don’t think twice about became common in the American home.
Between 1900 and 1920, most of the appliances that are in our homes today were first invented. These two decades saw the invention of the first vacuum cleaner, electric toaster, the home refrigerator, the iron, dishwasher, and even the first tankless water heater. Then in the 1930s came the first washer and dryer for home use and the advent of the laser label printer. The development of home tech has not only continued but increased in intensity since the 1900s. Experts in home tech predict that this trend will continue as long as the technology allows for advancement.
EVO IV and The Kitchen Computer:
Once the development of appliances had begun, it was only a matter of time before sci-fi aficionados got their hands things.
By the 1960s, home appliances had become commonplace. In 1966 America was introduced to the ECHO IV, a device that could turn on and off your home appliances, control the thermostat, and even generate shopping lists. The ECHO IV was never marketed commercially, and thus it never became a common appliance in the home, but there’s no denying that it was the first glimpse at the smart home tech that we see today.
A year after the advent of the ECHO IV came the Kitchen Computer. The Kitchen Computer was designed to store and generate recipes. However, the product never got off the ground due mainly to its overly sexiest (even for the 1960s) tagline, “If she can only cook as well as Honeywell can computer.”
Though neither of the preceding home tech devices never became commonplace in the average home, they did make the beginning of the digitation of the American home that has gained serious momentum in the last two decades.
The Microprocessor and Micro-Technology
1971 saw the invention of the world’s first microprocessor. This invention rapidly dropped the price of technology worldwide. With the process, down for the consumer, and the process down for the consumer, home tech immediately became far more accessible than ever before. Microprocessors are used in most devices in our homes, such as washer dryers, microwaves, toaster, thermostats, VCR players (later DVD), and televisions. All of the previously listed devices dropped dramatically in price after the advent of the microprocessor.
What is probably the last thing that a modern home tech user would think of when looking at their various smart devices? Elderly folks. Well, in 1991, home tech turned towards the elderly, developing devices and appliances that made a life for seniors more manageable. We’ve all seen the commercials that run on daytime network television for things like life alert or other senior emergency devices.
Though these devices are nothing flashy or fun for the modern home tech enthusiast, they are yet another example of home tech making its mark on our daily lives.
Motion and Sound Activated Lighting
Though motion-activated lights were invented in the 1950s, the advent of the Clapper in 1991 really brought these types of outlets to the average American home. Even if you weren’t around in 1996, everyone knows the Clapper, the outlet adapter that turns any light in the home into one that is turned on and off through the clapping of the users’ hands.
The Clapper is a fantastic example of the simple home tech devices that began the technological environment we live in today.
Smart Homes of the Near Past
In the late 90s and early 2000s, smart home tech became more affordable and far more accessible to the average consumer. With the popularity of home tech devices on the rise and prices on the decline, more and more home tech devices began to develop and appear on the shelves for consumers. The early 2000s saw the invention of Blue-Ray, Bluetooth, and, most importantly, the smartphone.
Without the technological advancements that consumers saw in the early 2000s, smart home tech would not be where it is today. If it weren’t for Steve Jobs launching the iPhone in 2007 (or even the release of the Blackberry just four years before that), who knows where home tech would be now.
Smart homes of Today
Smart home tech of 2020 is a completely different beast compared to even the home tech of the early 2000s. Why fiddle with a Clapper when you can control not only the intensity but the color mood of your lights using only your voice? There isn’t any reason to go retro when it comes to home tech, the future is now, and it’s more affordable and better functioning than ever before. Voice assistance technology, like Alexa or Siri, are predicted to hit nearly 2 billion users by 2021, this is a statistic that is only predicted to increase as smart home tech advances further.
Smart homes today are geared towards convenience, security, and energy efficiency. Smart thermostats and outlets are designed to help the users cut back on any unnecessary energy spending while simultaneously reducing your carbon footprint. Smart Hubs, lights, ovens, refrigerators, and TVs aim to add convenience to the home. While smart doors, cameras, and locks are set up to protect your home and your loved ones.
Smart Technology of the Future
The technology that we will see in the next ten years is completely speculative, though you should expect to see just about digital everything. Smart tech has already effected our cars and will soon change the way of transportation services altogether. The technology of the future will again change the way that we all live our daily lives.
Pros and Cons of Home automation
Whether you like it or not, home automation is here to stay. So, it is important to understand the ups and downs that come with theses home tech devices becoming more and more commonplace. The following will be a breakdown of the pros and cons of the smart home tech that are found in homes today
As was stated above, the ability of smart homes to increase energy efficiency is undeniable. With technology that can adjust to or even learn the habits of a home and those who live in it, the possibilities are endless. Smart thermostats and outlets are the big money savers among smart home users. Smart thermostats can adjust to the activity in the home and adjust accordingly in order to save the user money on the electric bill.
Along with the money-saving aspect comes the environmental consideration. Smart homes allow their users to reduce the carbon footprint of their homes. Being environmentally conscious is no longer a trend but has become an accepted way of life and is now becoming part of the way your home operates.
As mentioned above, convenience is a huge positive element of having a smart home. With the ability to control appliances and locks from your smartphone, you no longer have to worry about your kids (or you for that matter) losing the keys.
Finally, the most important pro of having smart devices in your home is the security that can come with it. With a smart home hub dashboard that can be monitored from your smartphone, you can always know what is happening at your home.
Installation and Implementation
Installation of home automation devices is complicated and time-consuming. If you are installing home automation services to a home that is already built, it can be easier to hire someone to do it for you, but that can be very costly. However, if you are building a home and have home automation services in mind during the design phase, it can be far easier but will likely be just as expensive.
Much like the advent of the assembly line, automation technology may pose a serious threat to jobs in this country and abroad.
Capability and Complexity
Automating everything in your home sounds as convenient as it comes. However, sometimes it is nice to simply turn a nob or flick a switch the good old-fashioned way. Being glued to your phone is something that people are actively trying to avoid these days, so if you need your phone to turn on your oven or adjust the thermostat, staying off your phone can be very difficult.
Smart homes, like most other technology, must be compatible with all devices to function properly. This can be very frustrating if you already have a home automation system, but opt for a new phone with may have different compatibility than your last device.
There’s no denying that smart home technology is far more affordable than it was just five years ago, however, home tech is still not cheap enough where every household can afford. And unfortunately, the cost doesn’t stop at installation, there are repair and maintenance costs like all appliances. As you know, far too well, large appliance repairs can be very costly, and just like those repairs, home tech repairs can be just as if not more costly than traditional appliance repairs.
As home tech develops more and more every day, smart devices will become more prevalent in our everyday lives. It is important to know the history of home tech when looking at the technology of today. To fully understand how far home tech has come, you must understand how it all started. And to understand the complexities of how to go smart today, you must understand why and how the technology of today has developed as far as it has. With all the information presented above, you can make a smart decision about what home tech to implement in your life.
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