Thursday, April 12, 2018

Hey Presto!

In 2018, the hot household item that seems to cautious cynics to have regret written all over it is a smart home device — an Echo, Google Home or Alexa to name a few — which is plugged in and responds to your every command and request by controlling other household devices or simply answering your questions. The techno-skeptics say you should be wary of having a device that can listen to your every move and relay it to an outside location; that such openness is fraught with peril.

In 1962, the hot household device that had peril writ large upon it was a Presto Control Master and any of the range of kitchen appliances it plugged into. Whether it be a crockpot, pressure cooker, or griddle, the idea was that in order to operate, you plugged in the control master (which provided the electricity as well as the temperature control) and cooked away. I’m not sure what the selling point was in investing in a range of cooking implements which could only be used one at a time, and were all reliant on that one essential element working properly.

Perhaps the idea was that Presto Industries was selling safety — the freedom from an open cook top or oven, and that all you needed to provide a family meal was a big enough counter. Certainly, the appeal couldn’t have been in eliminating or even alleviating clean-up, because this guide is packed full of maintenance directions as well as recipes.

Or it could be that then, as now, they are selling the idea of control; that dream of automation that takes care of household drudgery such as turning on the TV or cooking a meal. This is a gift for the housewife who has no real control in her life, but who dreams of having a remote control all her own — or at least just a cigarette.

Presto Control Master Appliances Recipe Book, National Presto Industries, 1962

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