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A Chronological History and Analysis of Electrical Appliances

Aug 9, 2008
When breaking the evolution of technology into a chronological timeline we can see that in recent decades it has slowed somewhat. When dealing with electrical appliances this is certainly true, especially when partnered with something like developments in health care; in 1900 the average life expectancy was 47 however, in 2000 this had risen to 77 years and is still set to grow to 82 by 2050.

Developments in electrical appliances went through an unprecedented boom in the early to mid twentieth century however post-boom, there has only been progress made in certain areas and this article analyses the rise of the electrical appliances market and possible reasons for its downward curb in the latter stages of the last millennia.

In the mid nineteenth century, there was a flurry of exciting patents around Western Europe for various contraptions designed for mechanising cleaning. These appliances would harness various energies such as kinetic energy to make the job of cleaning simpler. At this stage in our electrical appliances timeline, the focus was on discovery as well as profit.

The first vacuum cleaner has been accredited to the Englishman H. Cecil Booth who drew the engine powered contraption on a horse and cart with enormous hoses flailing in all directions which were then used to clean the house. The expense, practicality and accessibility of the invention were not viable for the general market and this meant this technology was not developed further.

This is a trend with many electrical appliances as their development went hand in hand with market demand.
Obviously the innovations in harnessing and distributing electrical energy opened the market right up however with the economic climate in the first half of the twentieth century being unstable at best, the mass distribution of electrical appliances was reserved for post World War 2.

Despite the first practical electric vacuum cleaner being available from 1907, the first electric toaster from 1909 and the first electric dishwasher and domestic refrigerator hitting the market in 1913, their usage were limited. This was due to the fact that the general populace could not afford to purchase, power or maintain these electrical appliances.

With WW1, the depression of the 1930s and the devastation of WW2 crippling Europe economically it was not until the end of rationing in the latter half of the twentieth century that electrical appliances started taking off. The electrical appliances market of the United States developed far earlier due their economy not being as damaged by the past decades however Europe made a speedy recovery.

Following in the footsteps of the US the development of electrical appliances was focussed on market viability and profit. The manufacturing costs were dragged down and production and distribution were increased. The Electrical appliances market as no longer focussed around innovation but commercialism.

Between 1970 and 1990 there were virtually no innovative new electrical appliances developed. The market was making billions by regurgitating new generations of the same product with slight improvements. It was not until the 1990s, when environmental concerns took hold of the market, that innovative electrical appliances were developed.

Developments in home cinema and television have been excellent examples of this commercialism versus innovation battle. The leaps from celluloid to digital home video in the latter half of the last century epitomise innovation for a commercial market. The parallel can be made with the healthcare industry, examining the massive developments of vaccines in the 1920s, which then laid dormant until the 1960s when the pharmaceutical industry had a strangle hold on new developments.

A conflict of interest could be cited in a climate where companies that make huge amounts of money from sickness are responsible for major medicinal advances, however that is a different story. The electrical appliances industry is still developing a rapid pace due to there being demand in the market for increasingly compact and user friendly technologies.
About the Author
Shaun Parker is a leading expert in the manufacture of electrical appliances and has years of experience as a distributor.
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