Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Home computers were once an invention looking for a use

A theme that I've noticed from time to time is that sometimes a technology will become available and no one will have any idea what it should be used for.

Technology will occasionally turn the old adage that "necessity is the mother of invention" on it's head and give us something that we can't figure out what to do with.

Sometimes, we'll even take a component from something and re-purpose it. I've heard of a type of German motorcycle that didn't sell well anywhere except India. It turns out that someone clever in India had discovered that the engine was ideal for powering water pumps and that the motorcycle could be purchased more cheaply than a purpose-built pump engine.

But I digress.

The point is that even home computers started out as an invention looking for a use.

In 1969, Honeywell saw the opportunity to market computers to home owners. They knew that there was a huge potential since Moore's law was bringing relatively powerful components in reach of the average homeowner. The problem was, they couldn't figure out what homeowners would want to do with them.

Their answer was the The Honeywell Kitchen Computer - The "pedestal model" of their Honeywell 316 16-bit minicomputer.

The best use for a home computer they could come up with was storing recipes.

Unfortunately, entering or even reading these recipes would have been very difficult for the average cook as the only "user interface" was the binary front panel lights and switches.

On the bright side, it had a built in cutting board. Not bad for a measly $10K in 1969.

Here's a Neiman-Marcus advertisement of the machine:

If she can only cook as well as Honeywell can compute.

Her souffles are supreme, her meal planning a challenge? She's what the Honeywell people had in mind when they devised our Kitchen Computer. She'll learn to program it with a cross-reference to her favorite recipes by N-M's own Helen Corbitt. Then by simply pushing a few buttons obtain a complete menu organized around the entree.
And if she pales at reckoning her lunch tabs, she can program it to balance the family checkbook. 84A 10,600.00 complete with two week programming course. 84B Fed with Corbitt data: the original Helen Corbitt cookbook with over 1,000 recipes $100 (.75) 84C Her Potluck, 375 of our famed Zodiac restaurant's best kept secret recipes 3.95 (.75) Corbitt Epicure 84D Her Labaird Apron, one-size, ours alone by Clairdon House, multi-pastel provencial cotton 26.00 (.90) Trophy Room"


  1. haha, cutting board.

  2. Obstacles are things a person sees when he takes his eyes off his goal.
    E. Joseph Cossman

    Having a technology without a use is just an example. As long as the harware keeps coming, we'll find uses.

  3. It's good that computers are now continuously upgrading. Sites like this gives knowledge to viewers to make a good choice of purchasing computers or laptops online.