HN Theater

The best talks and videos of Hacker News.

Hacker News Comments on
The Antique Toaster that's Better than Yours

Technology Connections · Youtube · 387 HN points · 8 HN comments
HN Theater has aggregated all Hacker News stories and comments that mention Technology Connections's video "The Antique Toaster that's Better than Yours".
Youtube Summary
You can support this channel on Patreon! Link below
That title isn’t hyperbole or clickbait nonsense. This really is better than your toaster. At least, I think so. Seriously, can we make this the norm, please? If we figured it out in 1948, you’d think we woulda kept going with it. I mean, really.

Looking for the previous video?
https://youtu.be/zLFG068HtgM

How about the second channel video where we improve and fix these?
https://youtu.be/2vcdbtAca0Y

Want to read those patents that were on the screen? You’re in luck! They’re right here!
Here’s the patent for the toaster itself:
https://patents.google.com/patent/US2667828
And here’s the patent for the thermostat:
https://patents.google.com/patent/US2459170A

Also, here’s a link to that fan-site I mentioned;
http://automaticbeyondbelief.org/

Do you want more of these videos to happen? Well then, you should know that you can support this channel on Patreon! Patrons of the channel have turned Technology Connections from sporadic hobby to… well, my job! And it’s super cool! If you’d like to join the fine folks you saw on-screen in pledging some support, please check out my Patreon page. Thanks for your consideration!
https://www.patreon.com/technologyconnections

And thank you to the following Patrons!Yaniv, Tab Patterson, Francis Fisher, The War Academy, Conor Killeen, Paul Emmerich, Jason R Scheuren, Dave Anderson, Noah McCann, Eric Hansen, Dane Peterson, Steven First, Audin Malmin, Adam D. Ruppe, Rafał Wiosna, Matthew Giraitis, Kevin Landrigan, Harald E. Westlie, Carl Yazbek, Stephen Bell, Logan Kriete, Hunter Schwisow, Matt Falcon, Kieran Cox, Eric Wood, Paul Williams, Brent LaRowe, Lurker239, Felix Freiberger, James Ryan, Lukas Komischke, Steven Hidy, Robert Joscelyne, Jason Nevins, Jeffrey, BlancoGrande, Stephen Pick, Logan Beenken, Technicalleigh, John McLusky, Adam Coddington, Lolucoca, Steven Metcalf, Justin Talbot, Christopher Jett, Elijah Reeds, Mike Mason, Techmoan, Brendan Terrett, Kotanu, Christopher Luna, Paul Mills, Colton Aubrey Hooke, Brian G. Shacklett, Eduardo Kaftanski, Steve Stone, Chris Hartl, Gantradies, Andre N, Tony, Matthew Baron, Revenge, Andres Plaza, Charlie Hankin, Casey Kikendall, Sebi Jecklin, Warmo, The8TrackKid, Drew McClain, Michael Snowden, Ed Hall, Julian Rapoport, Christopher Bassett, Ryan Cozzubbo, Marcus Schwartz, Johan Schoeman, Matt Taylor, Patrick Musson, Lars JJ, Richard Lindsey, Kollin O'Dannel, PK, blouerat, Robert Toth, Joseph Hill, Marc Ethier, Giacomo Scaparrotti, Brady Brown, Stein Strindhaug, foophoof, Ernie Smith, Tim Juchcinski, Christopher Dickey, Denver Alexander, Jan Stavel, Mitchel J. Mullin II, Matthew Razza, Trix Farrar, Marco Anastasi, Pavlo Pravdiukov, Raymond LaRose, Howard Kraut, Mike Bailey, Yona, neko, Grayson Lang, Thomas Beaver, Jeffery Grajkowski, Christopher Splinter, Eric Merrill, Stefan Berndtsson, Michael Sims, Clint Eisinger, Christopher Leidich, Mike Friedman, André Waage Sørensen, Sam Douglas, Sam Redfern, mark barratt, Tully, Duncan Ward, fussel, Corey A Hudson, EpicLPer, Luc Ritchie, Michael Dragone, Eric Romero, Ryan Hardy, Taylor Martin, Nicholas, thefanification, Ewen McNeill, Shane Zamora, John Bailey, Alex Ilyin, Andrew "FastLizard4" Adams, Avi Drissman, Phil Taprogge, Rich Jeanes, Jonathan Skowronek, Tim Grov, Pieter van der Eems, Brian Condron, Reto Jost, Torin Zaugg, Vince Terranova, Andrew Montagne, David Scott, Mike Nichols, Brandon Enright, James Fialho, Christian Torelli, toasterking, Jason Brady, Norman Tatlock, ce keen, Nick Pollard, David Grossman, Manalope, Andy S, Robert, Johan Greefkes, Jacob Dixon, Rob Kefford, Eric Butterfield, Tim Skloss, Benjamin A., James-Ross Harrison, Nathaniel, Colin Cogle, Aaron Rennow, Yota Ninja, Bee Jay, Countzero, Kodapan, Eli Krumholz, Guillaume Tremblay-Beaumont, Sha Nasti, Charles Surett, Laria, Stephen B Hinton, thegeoffreak, f. scott b., Piotr Kowalski, Elliot Clark, Bob Slovick, Jason Burgett, Jib Systems, Andrew Rosenwinkel, Grazer, Tero Janhunen, Bob B, Mike Noe, Scott Rowland
HN Theater Rankings
  • Ranked #10 this year (2020) · view

Hacker News Stories and Comments

All the comments and stories posted to Hacker News that reference this video.
But then how could you make toast when you're not home, like at a conference, or driving in your car?

/s

This is a pretty cool toaster: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OfxlSG6q5Y

Enginerrrd
Yeah we need a multi-platform smartphone app.
The Sunbeam Radiant Control Toaster predates both and seems worth mentioning here for it’s superior user experience and unique analog technology.

Technology Connections produced a fantastic teardown video of it a while back. https://youtu.be/1OfxlSG6q5Y

Here's an interesting video on why these old toasters are better than the modern ones: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OfxlSG6q5Y
dang
Discussed in depth! https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=21164014
Oct 05, 2019 · 386 points, 232 comments · submitted by CaliforniaKarl
ken
3 months ago, I wrote a mini-rant in response to this video about how this is the Worst Toaster Ever Made: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=20177007

I stand by every word I wrote. I'd rather use a propane torch. It'd be quicker and easier and safer.

davidw
> The sensor wasn't very good, either. There was a razor thin margin where you'd get reasonable toast, and it was almost all the way to the "light" end. At even 25% to "dark", you'd get a block of charcoal. I'd set it all the way at "light", and toast my bread twice, if needed, because that was safest.

In the video, the first toast that comes out of the 'old school' toaster looks pretty dark:

https://youtu.be/1OfxlSG6q5Y?t=78

gridlockd
Thanks for the rant. I saw that video back then and immediately suspected that it was a "so clever it's stupid" design.

I hate it when companies do that stuff and get away with it, or even praised for it.

(Looking at you Apple, your keyboards suck and the notch is stupid)

erikpukinskis
The notch is pretty smart. People want more screen space, but it’s nice to have the battery and time visible, the notch let’s you stick them up there with the camera in otherwise wasted space.
war1025
In the follow-up video he goes through how to adjust the thermostat and spring tension. So maybe your toaster was just adjusted wrong?

Maybe also just an example of something that's "too clever by half" [1]

My own mini-rant: We got a KitchenAid mixer for our wedding and I think it's the worst mixer I've ever used. We had a Sunbeam growing up and it was superior in every way.

[1] https://www.epsilontheory.com/too-clever-by-half/

thrower123
The old KitchenAid mixers are bulletproof and absolutely top of the line. My mother inherited one that was built in the 70s and it still gets daily use.

The newer ones feel much cheaper. My wife has one of the fancier new models, and it just feels like a much inferior product. It's the same design, but everything about it works less well than the older iteration.

starky
I bought a Kitchenaid last year and was quite disappointed at some of the "value engineering" they have done to them that is visible to the customer. The paddle attachment was no longer coated, they removed the handle from the bowl (this is the worst and I wish I had access to a spot welder to fix it), and they removed the spring loaded washer that holds the paddle on. The stupid part is that these changes maybe save $2-3 on the COGS (and that is mostly the bowl handle).
xyzzyz
You should never need to adjust thermostat and spring tension in a toaster.
war1025
Well I don't imagine it'd be a thing you should need to adjust often, but most things need to be calibrated periodically to work correctly.
linsomniac
I'm curious about the KitchenAid you got: Which one? Looks like the current Sunbeam mixers are fairly "cheap", compared to the KitchenAid "bowl lift" ones.

We have a bowl lift and I love it, though that's with an asterisk... Ours is a ~7 year old one (maybe 10), and the drivetrain is pretty crappy. The accessory port is driven by some really nasty looking sintered metal gears, and some teeth on ours broke, despite never having used the accessory ("PTO"?) port. I ended up taking it apart, I could get replacements for everything but I ended up disabling the accessory port because that part of the drivetrain was so sketchy. The rest of it was just fine.

The newer ones, as far as I can tell from a disassembly video I watched, are vastly superior in the drivetrain. Ours, has been a real workhorse since I did this fix. I used grease with a lot of molybdenum content, but should have used something rated for high temp, because at one point a few months ago my wife had it smoking.

war1025
We have the tilt one and not the bigger lift model. I eventually realized that the reason it couldn't even break egg yolks was that the set screw was adjusted wrong so the beater couldn't even get low enough to do anything useful.

It may be great once you get used to it. I mainly discovered that we don't have any need for a mixer.

The new Sunbeam mixers really are crap. My mom bought a replacement since something gave out on hers that must have been from the late 70s / early 80s. I think she used it once or twice and it either gave out or didn't have enough gusto to even mix up a batch of cookies. She got a KitchenAid that she feels similarly disappointed with as I do.

The thing that was great about the Sunbeam style mixer is that the beaters were at the back end of the bowl and a little rubber nub on one of the beaters "walks" the bowl around and shoves everything through the beaters, so everything gets mixed up really evenly. Plus you can grab the side of the bowl and move it back and forth to break stuff up better.

The other advantage is that the front of bowl is always open for pouring things in or scraping things off the sides.

The planetary gear thing the KitchenAid does just seems weird to me and doesn't seem to actually mix things thoroughly. Probably just a learning curve I've never bothered to go through...

knolax
> I'd rather use a propane torch.

I've had toast made on a charcoal grill and I gotta say it tastes a lot better than toast made in a toaster.

pkroll
Everything tastes better made on a charcoal grill. As someone in a high-rise, with a propane grill, my envy is considerable.
mumblemumble
I'm at least somewhat with you. My in laws have this toaster, and my mother in law loves it dearly. And her beloved Sunbeam toaster is the reason I make do with un-toasted bread for breakfast when we're visiting them.

My experience is very similar to what you describe: The switch that gets it going is finicky, and will frequently play games with you for several minutes before letting you have toast. The darkness seems to be controlled by a random number generator rather than the darkness dial. Aborting toast that's getting a bit too toasty is a non-obvious procedure that tends to involve singing your fingers. I suspect that the thing is a fire hazard.

The reason I stop short of saying it's a bad toaster with a bad design is, the thing is half again as old as I am, and it's probably just that it's starting to wear out.

After half a century.

Name another electric toaster that will make toast at all, however jankily, after that many years of service. The fact that the thing is the bane of my breakfast is kind of a testament to what a great product it was. A lesser toaster would never have survived long enough to torment me so.

(p.s. - I will say that that silent smooth rise out of the toaster, while impressive at first sight, is objectively a nuisance in practice, since it puts it on you to keep track of the time and an eye on the toaster so that you can get your toast when it's done, before it's had time to dry out and become unappetizing becuase you left it bathing in the toaster's residual heat for too long. Which is just way too much to be putting on me in the early morning, when the coffee has yet to take effect and I haven't had a chance to get so much as a slice of toast into my stomach yet.)

organsnyder
Do toasters wear out? I've never seen one that didn't give decades of service.
mumblemumble
Shame on me for commenting before finishing the video. Turns out there's a very easy fix for at least the finicky switch, and it sounds like it would do the trick for the Sunbeam toaster that I know and lov^H^H^H^H use sometimes.
adrianmonk
It's awesome how this toaster works, but for practical purposes, I would prefer a toaster that does not auto-start.

One of the challenges of cooking is juggling multiple things so the food is all ready at the same time. Being able to do steps in advance helps with that. This actually kind of matters for toast because freshly toasted bread is a lot better than cold toast.

So it's helpful to be able to take bread out of the package, stick it in the toaster, and put loaf of bread back where it belongs when convenient, then come back later and start the final step (actually toasting) at the exact right time.

(On a side note, in actual fact, I have never had a toaster. A toaster oven does everything a toaster does and more. You can make a hot sandwich with melted cheese, for example.)

toxik
Low tech solution: put the bread on the toaster instead of inside until you wanna start it.
undersuit
Agree. Toasters of all kinds say not to put fingers or utensils inside the unit. Putting things into toasters could make them electrically "hot", don't rely on the lever.
slavik81
Toasters warn not to stick fingers or utensils inside the unit because the heating element is essentially just exposed wiring. The danger is clear: you could easily shock yourself.

There's no obvious danger caused by putting bread in the toaster and not immediately starting it.

undersuit
It's the same thing, bread isn't conductive enough to shock you that's why it's ok to put bread in the toaster. Don't put pieces of metal shaped like bread in the toaster, don't put conductive things in the toaster like the piece of bread you just dredged in salt water.

>There's no obvious danger caused by putting bread in the toaster and not immediately starting it.

I don't get this. Is it an argument against the automatic toaster? Or are you advising me to keep my toaster unplugged until I'm ready to toast my bread because a toaster can be unreliable?

slavik81
I misunderstood you as suggesting we should be putting bread on top of toasters of all kinds.
undersuit
Or to the side, but yes. Maximum safety.
klez
Or put the bread in the unplugged toaster and plug it when you want it to start. Or, if the socket is not at comfortable reach, use a switch between the toaster plug and the socket. Not tidy, maybe, but it works.
twic
You can make a toasted sandwich in a Dualit toaster using the cage:

https://www.dualit.com/recipes/toastie

Or using a bag in a conventional toaster that lacks a cage:

https://www.lakeland.co.uk/10724/2-Lakeland-Toastabags---Toa...

benj111
"because freshly toasted bread is a lot better than cold toast"

Whilst I do agree with you, there is somewhat of a bathtub curve to toast temperature.

'hotel' cold toast, with very nearly melted butter is almost as nice as fresh hot buttered toast. Tepid toast isnt so good.

Ps a good overhead gas grill (broiler) is the best for toast, unfortunately most seem to be rubbish these days :(

insulanus
Oh, you won't get us into your cold toast game that easily, you tricky brits ;)
benj111
I think that being in a hotel/on holiday might have something todo with it.

It's like the retsina that tastes lovely in a Greek taverns, but take some home and it tastes awful.

__s
Had a toaster that would detect when you put bread in & start. Issue: walk away & if you don't take the toast out within a dozen seconds of it finishing, it'd go on to toast toast
nbutyllithium
Terrifying! At least the Sunbeam toaster in his video had a mechanism that requires the toast be removed before the cycle can start again (~11:25 in the video). Thinking of all the possible ways something can fail and mitigating them can be difficult but I feel like leaving the toast in should have been an obvious one.
ohazi
i.e. set your kitchen on fire. How the hell does something like that pass basic safety testing?
hinkley
This one has a latch that prevents that. To fire the second time you have to remove the toast (it’s mentioned near the end of the video).
Aloha
I'm really happy to see that a Technology Connections video made HN, this guy produces really entertaining and easy to digest videos about technology most people don't give too much thought to. While I can't say I learned anything new most of the time (This video and the one about TOSLINK are exceptions), I was entertained and can use these videos to send to someone who doesn't have a huge technical background on stuff.
lampenrad
Very neat design, but there are highly advanced toasters nowadays. There just doesn‘t seem a market for them in the West (yet?).

Bloomberg recently covered high-end Japanese toasters: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-05-16/this-japa...

megaremote
There are high end toasters in the west. I feel like no one did any research at all.

https://www.toaster.org/glass-toasters/

Cytobit
I don't see any evidence that that site did comprehensive reviews and analysis. Just a bunch of Amazon affiliate links.
lolinder
We actually have one of these, and it's absolutely brilliant. It's been in constant use since my father-in-law was growing up, and yet it still works flawlessly. I've never burnt a piece of toast with it.

It's kinda depressing that today our toasters are less useful and stop working 10x sooner.

emmelaich
Our family had one of these too. I remember it as being better and longer lasting than any toaster I've had since.

And it lasted a loong time - 30 years or so.

shakna
I actually had one of these for a good long while. I was too terrified of it to pull it apart and understand the mechanism, but it was a great example of UX.

Removing just the step of pushing down and fast return actually did make me appreciate it more.

But he is absolutely right when he pointed to the paper insulated wire as a truly hideous and terrifying thing. My toaster did eventually burst into flames, and that's about where I think the fire started. Hard to tell when looking at twisted metal.

I think this is a great example of the kind of things that planned obsolescence has killed. The design could probably have been improved, and the safety brought up to modern standards, through research and iteration.

However, why invest in making a better toaster when you can sell a $2 worth of toaster for $5 that will expire in less than two years?

bch
> [...] why invest in making a better [...]

This is the question of our Industrial Age. I think a nice example is VW (in a former life) w their beetle program. Well documented in Small Wonder[0] under Heinz Nordhoff[1]. Easy 50 years of incremental improvements and what seem like truly human- (Volks) oriented design decisions.

[0] https://www.amazon.com/Small-Wonder-Amazing-Volkswagen-Beetl...

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Heinrich_Nordhoff

userbinator
That's not regular paper. It's probably some sort of mica-asbestos composite and definitely not flammable.

Fire is likely to be caused by bread crumbs, since otherwise there is nothing combustible in the toaster (unlike the plastic-ful modern ones.)

Lio
I’m a massive fan of my classic Dualit 4 slice toaster. (Look I’m British we like toast, alright?)

I was all ready to pooh-pooh this new fangled design from the 60s vs Dualit’s classic design from 1952; it’s the Technics SL1200 of the international toast scene.

Honestly though this design is ingenious! Video is well worth watching (assuming you like toasted bread comestibles).

Now if you’ll excuse I’m off for some afternoon crumpet.

ooerrmissus
> Now if you’ll excuse I’m off for some afternoon crumpet.

Don't forget to bring her some of your toast ;)

Lio
If I knew how to type a Sid James dirty chuckle I would. ;)
craz8
I certainly heard that chuckle when reading that line

Keeping this on topic, Sid probably had one of these

combatentropy
> my classic Dualit 4 slice toaster

--- which is around $300 and still selling. I think we need to rethink the reasons that the Sunbeam was discontinued.

scoot
It sounds expensive, but we've had ours for over 20 years, and I expect it to last another 20 (or beyond) and look just as classy.

It's mechanically simple, easily serviceable (four screws), and spares are readily available.

nyolfen
this channel is truly excellent, strongly recommended if old electronics are even kind of interesting to you, and still worth a shot if they aren't. in particular i'd recommend this video about the sony trinitron:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0aFhzGEBQlk

puranjay
Seconded. Their exploration of failed technology is particularly interesting.

This two part video on CEDs - which I didn't even know were a thing - is absolutely fascinating. The depth of research rivals any educational program on TV.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PnpX8d8zRIA

rzzzt
I can also heartily recommend watching Alec's videos. He also has a second channel for the "DVD extra"-kind of content that doesn't quite fit into the original videos, or is cut due to time constraints; I find these also interesting (link leads to "Filming CRTs", demonstrated on the Trinitron used in parent's video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0j0IC0bu3dg
modeless
"Now you know why you were taught to never stick a knife down a toaster"

That's the most interesting part of this video to me. I was definitely taught this, and I never understood why because modern toasters don't have this problem (where the insides of the toaster may be connected to a live wire even when off). Funny how this kind of cultural knowledge persists after it's no longer relevant.

It's crazy to see just how unsafe appliances used to be. People maybe don't take that safety differential into account when lamenting the complexity and unreliability of modern stuff.

One other safety thing: it looks like this toaster may not raise small toast high enough to easily grab. Most toaster levers let you manually raise the toast higher than normal to retrieve it. Without a lever you are forced to reach into the hot slot and risk burns or electrocution to retrieve your toast before it cools.

tbyehl
Toaster tongs. I don't remember encountering a toaster that could lift while I was growing up... but toaster tongs were a hit at every Tupperware party.
MertsA
Yeesh, looks like an antique fire hazard to me. Also, unless the video is mistaken, if that complex linkage fails or the inner heating element fails then the thermostat on it is going to be blocked by that bit on the bottom of the bread carriage that's meant to block it while the carriage is lowered. That seems like a good way to get it stuck in the on position so if someone just looked at the toaster, they might not even realize that it's still on because the bread isn't lowered. What happens if something flammable like a letter slides off of something unnoticed and falls into the toaster? Even if someone is home and awake the thing moves slowly and is downright silent when it turns on and lowers the toast. The first sign of something going wrong might very well be flames.

This thing is a burn hazard, shock hazard, and fire hazard all in one.

Johnny555
We had a toaster where the side carriage broke and tilted over to the side and let the bread come into contact with the heating elements, there were some flames from the bread (and lots of smoke) but not enough to make me think the kitchen would burn down... I just yanked the cord out of the wall and pulled the toaster into the sink but in retrospect, I don't think even that was necessary, the bread was already pretty much burnt out.

Moral of the story is -- toasters are heating devices, so don't let them run unattended.

sjg007
Why would you have a letter near your toaster? Also why not unplug it when done?
hinkley
One of the advantages of the combination of 120V, ground wires and keyed plugs is that by and large electronics here have not really needed to be unplugged between uses by most people still living.

In fact the most likely vector to shock yourself is the plug on your vacuum cleaner, because it is so often plugged in and mistreated in the process. The materials and stress relievers have gotten better and it’s probably been 30 years since I’ve seen a frayed cord...

Well, except for my Apple power cords. sigh

insulanus
> Also why not unplug it when done?

Americans don't have time for this. They barely have time in the morning to grab their hot toast, hop on their Segway, or motorcycle, or rocket-ship, or what have you, and go go go go GO!

Love me some Americans.

koolba
> Why would you have a letter near your toaster?

The standard American household with 2.3 kids has everything on the counter near the toaster.

For the "oven" style toasters there's an significant chance that there's something made out of either paper or plastic atop the metal roof ready to melt as well.

> Also why not unplug it when done?

And plug it back in every morning? That'd be unnecessarily annoying.

UncleEntity
> And plug it back in every morning? That'd be unnecessarily annoying.

A lot less annoying than waking up to a 3-alarm fire methinks...

I still unplug kitchen stuff when not in use and it's been a long time since I was a kid in the 70's when stuff could (and probably would) "fail hard" and burn down your house.

diekhans
I have one of these things and it is a think of beauty as well as useful.

Since it has not had the cord replaced I have a switch at the outlet to turn off the power.

walshemj
There is this new fangled technology called a switch - or can you not turn American sockets off at the wall.
astura
You can
MertsA
That's the exception, not the rule in America. The only widespread use of switched outlets was back when floor lamps were much more common around the 70s. I think you'd be hard pressed to find a switched outlet on a kitchen countertop other than the one below it for a garbage disposal.
bakul
I was shocked when I first discovered that US sockets do not have a switch!
sjg007
I am a standard American with 2 kids and we don't have enough counter space to keep the toaster out all the time and my house is 2600 sq feet!
vonmoltke
> The standard American household with 2.3 kids has everything on the counter near the toaster.

I always, and have always, pulled my toaster out on to a clear portion of the counter before using it, to make sure nothing is too close when it operates.

> And plug it back in every morning? That'd be unnecessarily annoying.

Again, that's how I have always done it.

Growing up, both of these things were considered Toaster Safety 101.

OJFord
Why not just turn it off rather than actually unplug it?
NickNameNick
Probably because American sockets are normally un-switched.

(I don't get it - Every socket where I live has a built in switch)

OJFord
Oh I see, thanks, yes me too.
frosted-flakes
They are always unswitched, with the exception of some houses where a wall switch controls a receptacle on the other side of the room (for lamps).

There's no room for a switch on the receptacle, and North America has used the same plug arrangement since the 1910s (a ground prong was added later, but an ungrounded lamp from 1915 is still compatible with modern receptacles). Changing it now is not likely to happen. It is possible to buy a combination unit with a receptacle and a switch on a single yolk and wire it up so that the switch controls the receptacle, but I've never seen it done.

maxerickson
The burning letter would probably stain the chrome finish.
jmpman
I bet it wipes clean.
vonmoltke
I grew up with this toaster, and it is not anywhere near as dangerous as you make it out to be. We never had anything like the issues you describe, and personally I think your situations (leaving flammable material where it can fall on the toaster, leaving the toaster plugged in all the time) are downright dangerous regardless of the type of toaster in question.
MertsA
I'm not trying to imply that it's likely to occur, just that when talking on the scale of millions of homes with toasters in them, some of those convenient and ingenious design features would probably burn down many houses that a more modern design wouldn't have. Tons of people leave toasters plugged in all the time but you're not going to ever accidentally turn on a modern version where you have to push down a spring loaded plunger to switch it on.
jahewson
Survivorship bias. The design is ridiculously dangerous by modern standards. It would probably set my cat on fire.
JasonFruit
Feature.
jws
You sir, have a very narrow cat. I grew up with one of these. Not a death trap. Any time it gets hot inside the thermostat turns off the elements. The only thing that lets it stay on is the cool, moist bread absorbing energy in front of the thermostat.

That said, my father in law was the third generation owner of a large toaster company. He was appalled any time he saw someone using a toaster under a cabinet.

I remember reading about a remote tribe of people being appalled when a writer pitched his tent under a tree. Trees fall down. Why would you take such a risk?

twic
As a Brit watching this video, i had to stop and google a couple of Americanisms:

"unpolarized cord" - good god, you mean you can plug most American appliances in either way round, and so random parts of them will be live? This is the worst country on earth!

"toaster strudels" - correction, this is the greatest country on earth.

Aloha
Pretty much every modern appliance is polarized.

The key to note, in most houses when the unpolarized stuff was new, there were alarmingly few ground sources nearby, so the fact that one side of the appliance was hot, doesn't actually matter that much - so while it's safer now, it wasn't that unsafe then. I'd also point out, these choices make more sense when you consider the lower voltage of US power distribution.

kwhitefoot
Pretty much every modern European mains powered device is double insulated so it doesn't matter which pole is live and which is neutral.

Some countries do have polarized connectors (UK, some Polish, France, Belgium, etc.) but many do not. However supposedly competent electricians sometimes connect them the wrong way round anyway or omit the earth or both as I discovered in France last year.

See this web page for a convenient list of mains connectors and countries that use them: https://www.worldstandards.eu/electricity/plugs-and-sockets/

mikestew
and so random parts of them will be live?

Why on earth would you assume that?

This is the worst country on earth!

Could be, but we do know how to make appliances that are not dependent on which you plug them in. (Truth be told, I’m pretty sure a lot, if not most, other countries do, too.)

kwhitefoot
Modern devices are normally double insulated, it makes no difference which pole is live. Many European countries use unpolarised Schuko connectors.
megaremote
> toaster strudels

I am sure you can get the same effect in your country by just pouring a cup of sugar on each slice of toast.

twic
Cinnamon toast, the borderline poverty answer to toaster pastry!
maxerickson
The appliances would be designed to account for the plug going in either way, which is a long ways from 'random'.

Polarization and grounding enable designs that are even safer.

ozmbie
That's why I love UK and Australian/NZ power plugs. It's impossible to plug them in "the other way around". They only go in one way.
frosted-flakes
North American plugs also only go in one way, unless they are unpolarised, and pretty much all modern appliances have polarised plugs. The only stuff that doesn't are stuff like cell phone chargers, which is actually great, because sometimes it's more convenient to have it pointing the other way.
bigboat
It's double insulated, which is pretty common in the US.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Appliance_classes#Class_II

gautamcgoel
Comment of the day right here!
vinay427
Tangent but virtually every country in continental Europe has two-prong unpolarized cords. It's far more common here than in the US, in my experience.
Too
As ingenious as this is, can you truly call it simple? I mean just look at the patent alone, it has over 120 listed items and the real production piece probably even more. It is mechanically incredibly complex, combining all kinds of levers, materials, linkages, thermal expansion, small tolerances, reflecting radiation, latches, bimetallic switches. Contrast this with a basic design which can probably be made with 2 or 3 moving parts only: the spring, some latch and a time/heat-controlled relay.

Assuming you'd want to replicate this thing with modern equipment, would it be cheaper and simpler with a servo and a µC?

XorNot
Loved this video. The mechanical design of this thing (the solely mechanical design) is a thing of beauty.
Shivetya
The vintage toaster you want, no bagels, is a Toastmaster 1B16. my parents have my grandfather's toaster of this model and I have one from ebay. Perfect toast each time. Sunbeam made a similar one though it had less adjustment as seen in the video but I think it was inferior to the Toastmaster; I have both and both still work

Please note, whomever is using the name now is certainly not making a toaster of the same quality.

they weigh a good amount but that tends to be the case of anything from the forties and fifties.

Example auction of a 1B16 https://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Toastmaster-1B16-Automatic-...

Great site for toasters https://toastercentral.com/toaster40s.htm

joshu
I kinda want one. I wonder if people will start buying and modding them? I can/t wait for /r/MechanicalToasters
azinman2
Except how do you stop it early?
Retric
There is probably a button, but at worst unplugging it works as toast is raised when the coils cool.
ken
There is no button. You can sometimes make it abort by slamming the intensity dial all the way to the left. But yes, in general you have to unplug it, which is horribly inconvenient.
kempbellt
Turn the dial
azinman2
But it’s both not very accessible as well as you’re resetting what you might want to keep as the default.
analog31
You don't need to. Okay, that's a bit of an exaggeration, but... The classic toaster sensed the temperature of the toast, and stopped when it was done. My family had one of these, and it was quite predictable. We never had to change the setting, and it handled a variety of kinds of bread.

Today's toasters, at least the cheaper ones, seem to be based solely on time, and so it's unknowable how a particular kind of bread will behave. You have to watch it and be prepared to stop it early.

Bagels were a problem if the hole lined up with the sensor. I don't think store-bought bagels were a thing in our area until long after the toaster was made.

soheil
It seems like modern toasters try to accomplish so many requirements which are boring and dull at the expense of giving up on ingenuity and beautiful design. Take for example bagel mode, nearly all modern cheap toasters support that, this adds complexity and reduces viability of a rather simpler yet elegant design. Manufacturers wanting to satisfy these rather mundane requirements in order to not only appeal to as many consumers as possible, but also avoid a type of boycott because product X cannot do task Y, thus it's inferior marketing arguments, they forego engineering elegance.
soheil
This could be a type of The Tyranny of the Minority [0] having to satisfy so many small yet forcefully demanded items.

[0] https://areomagazine.com/2019/04/02/the-tyranny-of-the-minor...

harryposner
I don't think he's right that you could implement a bagel mode on that toaster by just running the center heating element. Both heating elements are necessary for the toaster to function (which he mentions!). You need to run the center element to drive the bread lifter, but you also need to run the outer element to heat the side of the bread facing the bimetallic strip. You can't put the bimetallic strip on the center side of the bread, since it needs direct exposure to the heat radiating off the bread, and the coiled center heating element would get in the way.
tuukkah
Additionally, there must not be a hole in the center of the bagel as that would cause the heat from one side to radiate directly to the bimetal on the other side.
gnicholas
I inherited one of these from my grandfather. I always thought it was elegant because there was no manual lever, but I had no idea how complicated the mechanism is (current through a wire heats it so it expands, triggering a series of levers). After watching the first part of the video I wanted to get it back out and start using it again. Then he described the paper insulation around the wire, and I decided not to. Maybe in a few years my kid and I will watch his remediation video and give it a try. Seems like a pretty serious fire (and electrocution) hazard as-is!
WalterBright
I've been using a Dualit toaster for 25 years now:

  https://www.dualit.com/products/2-slot-aws
This one is mechanical, with a clockwork timer. The toast doesn't pop out when done, as it stays warm until you're ready to get it. It's fun banging on the lever and catching the toast as it flies out. While it's a bit pricey, it's cheaper in aggregate than the endless parade of cheap toasters I had before that broke constantly.

I have no conceivable use for a digital display on it.

wkjagt
A while ago, I wrote (1) about an old toaster I had bought at a thrift store 7 years earlier and that I’d been using daily since. Now, 5 years later, I’m still using this same toaster, and it still out-toasts most newer toasters. I really believe it’s getting harder to find quality products that are built with longevity and repairability in mind.

(1) https://medium.com/@wkjagt/i-love-my-toaster-d9b335d4abf9

robocat
The nichrome wire is under tension in this device.

When the nichrome wire breaks (eventual common failure I think), wouldn't that cause a high risk of the live wire touching the body of the toaster?

retroriffic
Note that the host isn’t saying that this 60s toaster _as designed_ is better in every way— rather, that a modernized version of this design would be better than toasters designed today using the latest electronics.
spats1990
The left-hand slice of toast when it comes back up at 1:19. >:(

Good video though. Pushing the toast down 3-4 times before realising the damn thing is unplugged is my signature move.

denormalfloat
That is a lot of moving parts for a toaster. It seems like even a few crumbs falling into the wrong spot would jam the falling/raising mechanism.
radicalbyte
On a slight tangent: when I saw the title I thought "I'll probably have to post a link to that Technology Connections film showing that natty old toaster".

His channel is really interesting; even if like me you find his style a little irritating at first it really grows on you when you see that he really knows what he's talking about. One of my favorite channels next to Jeff Cavaliere (Athlean-X).

staplor
It's not as if similar toasters don't exist. I have a similar one in my kitchen.

https://www.kitchenaid.com/countertop-appliances/toasters/tw...

opencl
There are modern toasters with the auto drop functionality but none that I'm aware of that sense the temperature of the bread like the old sunbeam does.
starpilot
Get a toaster oven. Does everything a toaster can, better. Reheat cookies, make small baked goods, and just easier to use.
wyclif
I've used both frequently, and I don't think the toaster oven is easier. It's just better for things that are not slices of bread or bagels, so I'd concede it's a more general kitchen appliance. To toast bread in a toaster oven, I need to open the glass door, then position the bread on the tray, close the door, and then turn the dial. Then I have to open and close the door after toasting.

With a toaster, it's just drop the bread in and push the lever down. Then pull the toast out when done. It may not seem like a significant number of saved steps, but if you're doing it over and over again it adds up.

switch007
Pfffft toasters. Pan-fried toast is the best toast! This is _irrefutably_ true, because you can add butter to a pan and not a toaster! In case you aren't convinced: isn't a grilled cheese sandwich one of the best uses of bread? Case closed. Throw out your toasters and bathe in the wonderous joy of pan-fried toast.
pkulak
Knew who this was before I clicked. Do yourself a favor and browse his other videos: there's absolute gold in there.
dmitriid
The Swedish company Husqvarna used to make toasters that would carefully lower your bred, close the lid, and then carefully bring it back up much like the toaster in the video.

Unfortunately, Ic an't a video of it, or even proper product descriptions (it looks like they discontinued toasters). And yeah, it wasn't as consistent :)

gumby
Toasters like that are still for sale. I have one I bought at Target -- hard to get more mass market than that.

I recently moved into a smaller space so put the toaster in my garage and just use the oven like we did when I was a kid. My watch tells me when to pull it out!

kaendfinger
Highly Recommend this channel btw, lots of quality videos on old technology.
innagadadavida
Anyone remembers the afterdark screensaver from the PC era? It looks like this toaster was used for the flying toaster. Amazing product, pity today’s stuff is just built so poorly.
SubiculumCode
My grandma is still using the toaster she bought int he 60's. My mom is still using the same microwave she bought in the 80's, crank dial and all.
emcrazyone
I have this toaster and LOVE it.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=crc8n7D4kYg

friendlybus
Is it bree-ville or brev-ill?
robocat
Does anyone know how Breville are making really usable appliances?

I bought a microwave oven which has a very good UI (buttons, knobs, layout, display).

Also: why do I fear the UI of anything with a German brand name?

Krasnol
I like how the first time he puts toast into it, the left one comes out charcoal black before the cut. I wonder what happened there.
Tokkemon
I love this channel so much. Well done Alec!
dwighttk
So, you have to toast two pieces at once?
pg_bot
No, if you have one piece of toast you put it in the slot that has the lever.
dwighttk
ah, I was trying to stay around in the video until he got to that, but even at 1.75x I couldn't handle it.
EdgarVerona
That is pretty brilliant.
abootstrapper
I love this guys videos.
ubertoop
It's antiquated. My toaster uses machine learning to determine the "doneness" of the bread. Thereby allowing for breads of variant moisture levels to be brought to the same level of doneness, independent of surface heat.

Couple that with the fact that my toaster is also connected via 802.11g to the INTERNET where, naturally, I can view the toast progress via an iOS or Android app. A live feed of the toast progress is streamed to the app, and I can either cancel early or allow the bread to finish toasting. Upon finishing, a push notification is sent to my phone. Nice.

Lastly, and this is probably the highlight feature... I can share my toasting status to social. With the click of a button I can share a screen shot of my toast, WITH my choice of camera filter. Nothing says "ive got it better than you" than a picture of a perfectly toasted piece of toast with a christmas spirit filter.

dTal
The slow-burn upping of the ante left me unsure if this was even satire. Well done.

...it is satire, right?

Avshalom
You jest but the netbsd toaster is closing in on 15 years old https://www.embeddedarm.com/blog/netbsd-toaster-powered-by-t...
drivingmenuts
It’s all fun and games until someone hacks your toaster to start toasting penii onto the surface.
trhway
or they make the toaster to slightly and unpredictably vary the quality of the toasting - not enough for you to notice anything specific, yet enough to make you start the day with a bit of puzzled annoyance and undermining your confidence in your perception of reality - "was the toast different yesterday or is it just me?" - and leaving you with something bugging at the back of your mind through the day making you a bit impatient, a bit more easily frustrated, distracted and having some unspecified resentment building up deep inside you more and more with every day...
bch
Isn’t that what these[0] are for?

[0] https://www.bedbathandbeyond.com/store/s/panini-makers

dsamarin
I would pay good money for a toaster that would print my own uploaded designs into
trhway
the free version prints ads. Uploading your own designs is a premium feature.
CinchWrench
But your toaster is open to the internet and now it mines bitcoins for some shady character in Moldova.
antongribok
A sad state - I struggle to say if this is serious or satire.
DaiPlusPlus
Is it on Amazon?
unionpivo
no but 50 different lookalikes from china are.
sixdimensional
Don’t forget it’s hooked up to the IoT cloud and has a digital twin for real time troubleshooting, as we are monitoring the device telemetry via MQTT and performing big data predictive maintenance analytics using RNNs! We’ve already shipped a replacement toaster coil, dispatched a technician and billed your credit card $9.95 per month, since it’s now “toaster as a service”!
kalleboo
If my toast isn't on the Blockchain, I'm not eating it!
netsharc
Why own a toaster, using my Toasteroo service other people will make you toast and bring it to your front door!
pooya13
We are approaching The Toaster Event Horizon.
paulcole
18 minutes for that. Jesus Christ.
benj111
Someone should introduce this guy to the Teasmaid, I think he'd be equally impressed

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teasmade

tompccs
There's a simple reason why this toaster was discontinued, and that's because it can't be made from commodity components which are used by all toaster manufacturers, as well as in a variety of other domestic appliances.

Plus, assembly looks quite intricate and probably highly manual.

It's beautiful, sure, but go and buy a toaster today and see how much premium people are willing to pay for a designer brand with no functional advantage.

Sadly toasters all work "well enough". This is a textbook example of great engineering being trumped by globalised economics and fickle consumers.

hinkley
Except we live in a world where YouTube videos are interrupted by photogenic hipsters selling sunglasses made of titanium and hand cut, old school soap.

Recreating this toaster is exactly the kind of thing I hope that set gets around to.

Plus, there are toasters that cost more than my tablet which don’t have this feature. If you can make a toaster that infuriatingly stupidly expensive and sell it, you can sure as hell afford to make a workalike [of] this mechanism.

smacktoward
Even for that market, the way you make money isn't by making products that are better than the commodity alternative. It's by taking the commodity alternative and dressing it up in fancy packaging and marketing so it looks like a product that's better than the commodity alternative.

Making unique, superior products is expensive. Your profit margins are much better if you just take the same crap everyone else is selling and put a sharp suit of clothes on it.

puranjay
My biggest pet peeve is all sorts of appliance manufacturers sticking touchscreen displays everywhere.

The coffee machine in my office has a touchscreen display. It only dispenses 4 things - lattes, cappuccinos, black coffee, and espressos.

Why does this have to be a touchscreen? It could have easily been more usable buttons.

But I guess you can't charge a $100 premium for buttons

lb1lf
Probably cheaper to localise.

Rather than having to do X front panels, you just put all localisation data in a config file and be done with it.

And yes, I would much prefer actual pushbuttons.

knolax
Chances are that touchscreen display only has English.
rzzzt
The labels can still go on the LCD, with hardware buttons on the side. The machine at work has those, and there is definitely a language selector hiding somewhere within its menu system...
Izkata
My building is getting new elevators right now, they just finished the first one last month. Biggest unexpected change: There's a touchscreen for selecting what floor you want. All it displays is a static list of numbers.

I would've thought maybe it's a hygiene thing, easier to clean a flat surface, except below it is a number keypad with only 0-9, where you can also pick a floor by typing in your floor number. Plus, ground floor has its own independent physical button.

I've already gotten into the habit of ignoring the touchscreen and using the physical buttons as a mini rebellion - there's a security camera in the elevator, maybe someone will pick up on it.

war1025
We share a kitchenette at work with another company. They had a Keurig with a LCD display on it that didn't look like it did much of anything. A few months ago they replaced it with a newer model, and this one just has buttons.

I don't know if that's people getting some design sense and not using screens where they don't need to, or just happenstance. But it seemed relevant.

ahartmetz
I have worked on embedded software with and without touchscreen UIs, and in some cases a touchscreen was used where it did not make sense. Peak touchscreen was around the time of the huge iPhone / iPad media sensation. Since that is over, it's probably getting better.
dawg-
I like to imagine that whatever company makes these little touchscreens employs the Michael Jordan of B2B salespeople.
Spooky23
Planned obsolescence. The coffee machine can probably go 5-7 years, but the touch panel gets 3-5 with heavy use.
hrktb
Doesn’t it also display warnings, cleaning and maintenance messages ?

All coffee machines I’ve seen with any kind of screen made extensive use of it for messaging purposes. It is a lot more useful than some led blinking twice for cleaning and three times when there’s no water in the tank.

detaro
Many with screens have actual buttons for input though.
nullc
> There's a simple reason why this toaster was discontinued, and that's because it can't be made from commodity components which are used by all toaster manufacturers, as well as in a variety of other domestic appliances.

The youtube comments include a response from a former sunbeam employee that suggests that it was discontinued because the companies CEO at the time was someone known for stripping companies and likely laid off the manufacturing staff.

coldtea
>There's a simple reason why this toaster was discontinued, and that's because it can't be made from commodity components which are used by all toaster manufacturers, as well as in a variety of other domestic appliances.

That's definitely not the reason. We have automation robots and people do kinds of manual assembly for much less than a $200 or so this could easily command (besides, it's still being made).

We also have toasters with custom parts made today, they just aren't purely electro-mechanical like this.

That you can have one for a century and it will still work/be repairable easily is more likely the reason.

stuart78
where did you find it still being made?
coldtea
I meant mechanical toaster that strays from modern comodity designs. Not the same brand, but Dualit e.g. still makes 50s still serviceable chrome-platted long running traditional toast making machines:

https://www.dualit.com/products/4-slice-newgen

You can still find the old Sunbeam units on ebay. And there are fan sites:

http://www.automaticbeyondbelief.org/

And even investigative pieces on them:

https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/10/who-k...

NeedMoreTea
Well Dualit are still making them manually, and seem quite successful. Repairable and last decades.

Sage have tried for the market of "premium, but made like crap really". £120+ for a regular toaster with added LEDs, displays, etc. They sell purely as they paid a celeb chef for their adverts.

abcdefabcdef456
Yes! Sage's "Heston" coffee machine is absolute pants too...
jmkb
Are "pants" good or bad? I can never remember...
AareyBaba
They are not the bee's knees is what he's saying.
AareyBaba
pants are 'the bees knees'
wingworks
bad
insulanus
I think "pants" are bad in this case

https://cupofjo.com/2008/06/british-slang-thats-pants/

gonzo41
Isn't the great engineering the fact that all toasters are made from commodity parts and are cheap and able to be had by all.
tompccs
Oh yes I agree, and if some enterprising engineer wanted to buy the trademark and start producing them again I'm sure they'd use a servo and a microcontroller to achieve the same effect.

The design of the toaster reminds me of the design of the first transistor radio which ingeniously needed just four transistors to work. Nowadays that engineering effort would be a complete waste of time. It's sad in a way that that sort of craft has been lost, but it's largely redundant now.

braythwayt
There are many kinds of great engineering. Lego making billions and billions of really cheap little plastic bricks that last forever and click together no matter when you bought them is one kind of great engineering, so is SpaceX.
taylorfinley
Really cheap? I have a friend who is a single mother with a 7-year-old Lego addict, who also loves all things Jurassic World. The only Lego sets available in the aisles of the big box stores around us (conveniently placed at 7-year-old height) are the egregiously over-priced officially licensed movie tie-in kits. I was shocked to see some of these relatively small kits selling for over $100, the cheap ones being in the $40s to $60s. My friend's income (with food stamps) is roughly $1,000 a month... So her son has to feel constantly deprived of the cool toys he really wants. I confess I ordered a knock-off set from AliExpress for his Christmas present last year, he got dozens of Jurassic World-ish Lego-like bricks and it cost me less than $20, shipped. I had very positive feelings about Lego as a kid. Now I see them as just like any other business, engineering desires into their target market and exploiting those desires for maximum profit.
Spooky23
You can get the big mixed bucket of 3,000 pieces at WalMart for $30.

LEGO sets have always been priced at a premium.

You can also do well at yard sales. I got my son a tote of mixed LEGO’s for $6 recently.

shantly
Their sets have always been expensive, though my older (late 80s through late 90s) ones were much bigger for a comparable price (with similar or smaller part counts—they love putting hundreds of tiny little pieces for really fiddly construction in modern sets, it's awful, I assume CAD or something is to blame) but a regular old box o' bricks is pretty cheap, and if you're not trying to buy complete high-demand sets they're cheap in mixed brick lots on ebay, too.
megaremote
> Really cheap? I have a friend who is a single mother with a 7-year-old Lego addict, who also loves all things Jurassic World.

Well, like all of us who didn't grow up rich, she has to adapt and get the cheap lego sets, rather than whatever the kid wants.

> Now I see them as just like any other business

That is more on you than Lego.

braythwayt
For the purpose of a discussion about engineering, each brick _is_ really cheap. The argument is that something they manufacture and retail for a dime or less is engineered to exacting tolerances.

Think about it: You buy a Tesla Model X for Unobtainium money, and there are panel gaps. But you buy a bucket of Lego bricks for $20, and each one clicks together perfectly.

Lego may be expensive for a tiny blob of plastic, but the point I'm making is that their engineering is amazing relative to the cost of each brick.

p.s. That being said, I hear you! The sets with authorized franchise tie-ins are expensive, in large part because a sizeable part of their market are adults with disposable income. There is no other explanation for a CAD800 Millennium Falcon with 7,500 pieces.

userbinator
Think about it: You buy a Tesla Model X for Unobtainium money, and there are panel gaps. But you buy a bucket of Lego bricks for $20, and each one clicks together perfectly.

Automotive body panels are large and relatively flexible, hence harder to get close tolerances on. Small injection-molded parts, however, can be made to much closer tolerances and the process has been around for over half a century.

lazyjones
> It's beautiful, sure, but go and buy a toaster today and see how much premium people are willing to pay for a designer brand with no functional advantage.

$200+ easily, just look at KitchenAid or Magimix toasters...

tgsovlerkhgsel
> great engineering being trumped by globalised economics

The art of engineering is not to create a beautiful machine, it's to build something that does the job as efficiently as possible.

It's easy to build a machine that does something, it's hard to build it so it can also be manufactured cheaply. See e.g. the Juicero (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Juicero#Controversies).

yummypaint
I don't think the juicero was about solving a problem people actually had. It's real purpose was to add DRM to fruit.
tgsovlerkhgsel
Well, yes, of course, bad engineering was not Juicero's biggest problem, but it was part of the issue and the reason why their DRM machine was so expensive to manufacture.
abcdefabcdef456
I went through 4 toasters in quick succession, never bothered keeping box or receipts so had no recourse. 18 months ago I bought a Tesco own brand, under a tenner, and it's still going. BUT it can't take a standard size piece of bread. Beyond the absurd, I rotate my toast daily whilst banging my forehead on the counter. (I did keep the box and receipt this time, I really must take it back)
denton-scratch
Toasters do not all "work well enough". Shout if you have a toaster that you bought less than 5 years ago, that is still working. I think they're supposed to start failing after a year or two.

[Edit: if it's older than ten years, say how old - they made them better back in the olden daze]

These devices are sold for ten euros/dollars, or so. You really can't do good product design to that sort of price point. People expect to have to "recycle" them.

I bought a toaster for which you can order replacement heater elements, or a new timer. You can dismantle it and reassemble it with a normal electrician's screwdriver. The timer is clockwork. The whole thing's very steampunk.

It cost about 8 times as much as a "disposable" toaster. I don't know if it was a good deal; I'll tell you in a few decades. But if I don't have to bother with replacing it, from my POV that will be money well-spent; I'm sick of replacing stuff that should still be working. I'm sick of "hardware" that's really made of tissue-paper. And I'm sick of furniture that's made of wood-chips.

</rant>

cglace
I received a toaster as a wedding present 7 years and about a week ago. We’ve used it almost everyday since then(when we are home). It’s a breville, we have a lot of their products and they all seem to hold up really well. I bought a breville coffee grinder 10 years ago that I still use every morning.
rzzzt
Happy Anniversary! :)
nextos
What you are saying is sadly the reality today within most product categories.

For example, go to a totally different category: clothing.

In the great age of US sports clothing, tees were slowly knitted by machines called loopwheelers. E.g. tees from Champion.

These days, they are crap. If you want a nice tee that will age well and last really long, you need to buy from some Japanese brands that try to imitate old Champion tees. The price is really high, and you'd most likely need to import or buy from a high end shop.

I try to buy good stuff that lasts ages. I don't care paying a big premium. I try to live with around 100 items. But its really hard.

thrower123
With clothing, I generally find that the less I spend on clothes, the better they are. A $10 pair of Wranglers from Walmart holds up much better than the $100 pair that comes from a name-brand outlet.

Probably the best pairs of shorts I ever bought were some weird brand that cost $8 apiece at Sam's Club...

wyclif
That's not the case when it comes to certain types of clothing. For instance, I'm thinking of Oxford cloth button down shirts (OCBDs). Mercer makes high quality, heavy weight shirtings and as a result of the cloth and stitching the shirts last a long time and look great: http://www.mercerandsons.com/
copperx
Perhaps far brom being the nicest shirts, but the $15 OCBDs I have bought at JCPenney's have lasted more than 10 years with barely any fading. They seem indestructible.
gryz
Do you have examples of brands to look at?
nextos
The Real McCoy's, Tezomeya, Studio D'Artisan, Buzz Rickson, Strike Gold...
denton-scratch
Jeez, never heard of all these brands. I favour Fruit Of The Loom for tees. Maybe I'm just not hip.
on_and_off
for tees ?

it depends what you are looking for.. if the only criteria is quality :

- Maison Cornichon. It is actually a french brand but Japan is by far their biggest market. They use old french machines. the resulting tee is very strong, probably heavier than what you expect. They do have a lot of shrinking when you wash them (and you can expand them again afterwards).

- Merz B. Schwanen : simple high quality german tshirts

- The Real McCoy's : japan brand specifically trying (successfully) to reproduce americana pieces.

- lots of other japanese brands make good tshirts.. it kinda depends what you are looking for. Blue blue japan pieces are often very beautiful but also indigo dyed (so they leak a LOT of pigment the first time they are wet).

- Taylor Stitch actually makes one of the heaviest tshirts I have ever seen.

- Outside of cottons tshirts, there are also tons of merino ones. Outlier would be the most well known in the USA. It is was less resistant to abrasion that a cotton one, but it absolutely does not retain smells (so you could hike 10 days with it if you wished to, it would barely smell anything).

The machines that a lot of these brands use are actually pretty interesting. These are often very old machines. Their use had been almost completely abandoned because they are pretty slow. There are 'lots' of them in Japan in the first place because several decades ago they were pretty standard. The industry has moved to new machines with better yields but some niche brands saw an opportunity there.

E.G. there are some Youtube videos on how a brand like Momotaro makes denim : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ek5520fSymY

shantly
I'm pretty sure a lot of the "improvements" in price attributed to international trade over the last ~4 decades have more to do with the lowest end of the current product range simply not existing before, i.e. the worst versions of a product are worse (and cheaper) than the worst version that was available decades ago. Those products take over—for reasons that may include consumers legitimately preferring them but also probably includes difficulty consumers have finding reliable information about products other than price—and the nicer version that used to be the norm might actually get more expensive as new market segments develop and production scale drops.
insulanus
This is a good point - some of what we are calling cheap crap just wasn't being made before.

Besides there being more stuff of every type of buy, the purchasing power of the dollar has declined, so maybe people can't afford a toaster that's as good any more?

https://fred.stlouisfed.org/series/CUUR0000SA0R

I guess you'd have to multiply this by whatever the average wage was for each year.

denton-scratch
"can't afford"

I don't think that's right. I think it's less expensive to make stuff that doesn't need to be replaced.

multjoy
My Kenwood thing off Amazon is still working fine after over 10 years. Wasn’t expensive, certainly isn’t artisanal.
aeternum
I had that same sunbeam toaster shown in the video. It worked great for the first year, then we had to throw the bread in with increasing amounts of force to get it to start.

Eventually we were dropping bread from high above the toaster to get just the right amount of force. It often took many attempts, would not recommend.

pix64
He has a second video showing how to adjust the toaster. There is a screw at the bottom under the crumb tray which adjusts the tension.
undersuit
I bought an $8 toaster from Walmart some years ago when I consider the economy better(cause I was also able to buy a $20 microwave).

It has a plastic exterior, and a metal interior. The thermal regulator was luckily designed for this, if you start more bread immediately after the first pair it will finish faster and with less cooking.

It's a very reliable toaster for $8 , and if it breaks I'm going to feel like an asshole when I throw it in the garbage.

I used it in January when I toasted some banana bread.

cdubzzz
We bought the cheapest toaster we could find at a Target probably 5 - 6 years ago. Still works fine.
bryanrasmussen
I agree with every point you made, especially the wood chips. however I am still peeved at you because you did not include a link to this toaster you bought. How do I get one?
denton-scratch
This toaster is a Dualit. I cannot recommend it as a consumer product; the company is quite nasty to deal with, I think. Also, my Dualit toaster is only two years old; for the price I paid, I'd need something more like 10 years service to be able to recommend. HTH.
vageli
> Toasters do not all "work well enough". Shout if you have a toaster that you bought less than 5 years ago, that is still working. I think they're supposed to start failing after a year or two.

> [Edit: if it's older than ten years, say how old - they made them better back in the olden daze]

> These devices are sold for ten euros/dollars, or so. You really can't do good product design to that sort of price point. People expect to have to "recycle" them.

> I bought a toaster for which you can order replacement heater elements, or a new timer. You can dismantle it and reassemble it with a normal electrician's screwdriver. The timer is clockwork. The whole thing's very steampunk.

> It cost about 8 times as much as a "disposable" toaster. I don't know if it was a good deal; I'll tell you in a few decades. But if I don't have to bother with replacing it, from my POV that will be money well-spent; I'm sick of replacing stuff that should still be working. I'm sick of "hardware" that's really made of tissue-paper. And I'm sick of furniture that's made of wood-chips.

> </rant>

Might I ask what brand of toaster is it?

eldenbishop
Sounds suspiciously like a Dualit... https://www.dualit.com/products/classic-toasters
denton-scratch
Oh, you got me. I was trying to avoid mentioning brands.
cameronh90
I have a toaster just about 6 years old now. It wasn't a spectacular one, just not the cheapest one from Walmart. It cost £50, still works as well as when I got it. The toaster in my rental property is now 10 years old and still going strong too.

Fridges on the other hand... I've had 3 die over the same period.

jdnenej
I have never seen a toaster just randomly break. I have had 2 toasters in my life. The first one broke because someone attempted to clean it and after that it would trip the ground power breaker on use. The second one has been working for about 5 years now.
carlmr
>Shout if you have a toaster that you bought less than 5 years ago, that is still working. I think they're supposed to start failing after a year or two.

I bought mine in 2015 and it works. I've never had a toaster fail either. I'm not sure what you're doing with your toasters.

One of my water boilers failed (lid hinge broke). My oven recently broke after 12 years.

All in all I don't have many problems with appliances breaking.

I think it's more survivorship bias to think that old appliances were better. The ones you see surviving are the ones that didn't break a long time ago.

denton-scratch
I assume you're not trolling; people don't troll on HN, right?

"2015"

Cool. That's four years ago.

I use toasters to toast stuff. Mainly pre-sliced bread, sometimes bread I sliced by hand. Occasionally bread I baked myself. Srsly - I'm not trying to toast building materials, or bathroom tiles, or garden waste.

And I don't know why four years is supposed to be a good lifespan for a device that has no parts that have any kind of failure-plan. I mean, a toaster should last forever.

"Survivorship bias": The "ones I see surviving" have all failed, in point of fact. They've all broken down. The only "machines" I own that are older than five years are [1] a ROTEL audio amplifier (cheap == < £120, works well), and [2] Monitor Audio bookshelf speakers (about £400 for the pair, they look nice too). Both of these are more than 20 years old.

But my beef isn't about toasters; a cheap toaster costs about EU20, who gives a shit. It's about washing machines and dishwashers. These things cost from EU300 to EU700; and as far as I can tell, it doesn't matter how much you are prepared to spend, it's going to fail within five years (and you're going to have to call out a mechanic several times during that interval).

There's no "survivorship bias" going on here; the stuff I've referred to that survived belonged to my parents. Dude, they've both died.

carlmr
No, I wasn't trolling. Maybe I'm just extremely lucky but my current oven is 7 years old and works very well.

I'm even an avid baker and cook, so it's not like I underutilize my appliances.

My washing machine is currently only 4 years old.

organsnyder
We have the same toaster we got for a wedding present 13 years ago. It was not an expensive model (probably $30). I didn't realize that this was an appliance category that was prone to failures.
copperx
They aren't. The last $5 toaster I bought has been working for 12+ years. There aren't many points of failure in a cheap toaster. Add fancy features and the story changes.
bcrosby95
> And I'm sick of furniture that's made of wood-chips.

Yeah, I learned woodworking partially because I wanted furniture I knew wasn't made from crap. It's a fun hobby that lets me step away from the computer.

Nevermind all the chemicals they use in some of this stuff. We bought a dresser and it smelled so bad we had to leave it in the garage for half a year before we used it indoors.

PaulHoule
My mother-in-law bought Her first toaster made in China from Wal Mart circa 2000, it burned up in about a week. Since then the toasters i have seen don't burn up but they are incredibly slow and try to make up for it by having more slots. It doesn't help much because usually i want one slice or at most two.

Did old toasters have asbestos in them?

userbinator
Did old toasters have asbestos in them?

Yes. Asbestos was everywhere at least in the first half of the 20th century. The type, amount used, and typical exposure is not really a concern, however. I'm not aware of any problems caused by using asbestos-containing toasters daily --- on the assumption that if there were, it would've been all over the news.

burmer
My toaster growing up was a wedding present, for my grandparents. It still works.
ryacko
The Dualit toaster in my household was recommended by an appliance repairman. It is reliable so far, but it wasn't until the past year that the medium setting on the timer actually resulted in medium toasting.
phyllostachys
I think my wife and I have a toaster from when we first got married. It'll be 13 years this month. It's probably a 2009 or 2010 model, so really only about a decade or a little less old.
ImprovedSilence
Right. It’s unreal how hard it is to find decent shit built to last, and don’t tell me I’m not willing to pay a premium for it, because I am willing. What I don’t like buying is shit branded as upscale high quality that is really the same garbage underneath.

I’m sure there a number of different elements at play here, but one aspect I’ve seen happen time and again is private equity buying out a company and using that strong brand to make progressively shittier and shittier goods, for the same or higher price, while still retaining enough critical mass mindshare that the brand is still “quality”.

starky
This is something that really bothers me about the current market in North America (not sure if this applies to the rest of the world but I assume it does), there is no such thing as a basic well made product anymore. You either get cheap crap designed to be disposable, or you pay a whole bunch for a "smart" product that is really the same crap as the cheap thing in a nicer housing, but now you have software that works worse than a physical interface and will become a brick in a year when the company stops supporting it. To get anything worth purchasing you pretty much have to find a craftsman for your object, or find a fully private company that doesn't desire to maximize their profit.

The particularly infuriating part about it is that I work in product design, and it isn't something we can fix. If I were to start my own product company, it would absolutely be something with a significant "smart" component to it. Not only is it what the customer seems to want, but you need it to prevent someone else from copying your IP and undercutting you.

denton-scratch
Yeah, they did this with all the good British bicycle brands. Raleigh, Dawes and so on; they were good bikes. Nobody makes good bikes in the UK any more. The good bike makers got bought by Chinese companies, and the results are crap. Get a USA bike. Trek are good value.
nikau
Trek makes 99% of its bicycles overseas.
nickbarnwell
As do 99% of bicycle manufacturers producing CF frames - the expertise and manufacturing base are primarily in Taiwan, and everyone from Trek to Canyon are sourcing from the same few people. There are some boutique brands still doing lugged carbon builds that may be assembled in the USA with the AL components manufacturer here as well, but they'll be more expensive and worse performing models for the crowd who hasn't moved on from their "steel is real" phase.
ImprovedSilence
Yeah, same with a lot (but not all) US bike companies. Cannondale was a family owned business, got bought by private equity, and manufacturing moved overseas. I can't say much as to the quality of their bikes, they're probably still fine, as high end bikes are all about geeking out over the tech, and you don't cut corners on that kind of market, but still.
rabidrat
> shit branded as upscale high quality that is really the same garbage underneath.

and this is how bad money drives good money out of the market. What is the general solution for this, assuming the quality level isn't illegal?

mrami
I imagine the solution is going to be some sort of parallel to open source, that I can't quite visualize atm.

Maybe the next generation beyond 3D printing will be able to do multi-component assembly tasks, and you can get/print your own high quality components, and assemble your own high quality toaster... Maybe

ImprovedSilence
The open source angle is an interesting concept. The raspberry pi seems to be doing quite alright, despite its design being completely open sourced. Can that model be tweaked a little to apply to all sorts of manufactured goods...? I’m mean, a brand name can have value.
detaro
The Raspberry Pi isn't a great example: You can't make a clone of it, because Broadcom will not sell you the SoC for it.

The parent mentioned 3D printing: I think that's the space were right now this plays out the most. Many designs are open or at least have open components, and people build and sell variations, but brands and brand loyalty are very much a thing.

bcrosby95
Yeah, I learned woodworking partially because I wanted furniture I knew wasn't crap. It's a fun hobby.
tgsovlerkhgsel
All the "buy quality stuff" people seem to ignore the fact that it's nearly impossible to recognize quality stuff.

I can spend $10 or $40 on a toaster. Both will do the job. One will maybe look slightly nicer. Maybe the $10 toaster will break after 2 years (if it breaks before that, it's still within the mandatory warranty period), then I'm out $10 at worst.

But when I get the $40 toaster, it might be higher quality, or someone just put even worse crap into a nice box and charged me a ridiculous price for it. I can't distinguish those two scenarios. It might last 10 years, or it might crap out after 2 and now I'm out $40.

And the cheap toaster might also last 10 years (mine is 5 years old, so even if it craps out now, the $40 toaster would have had to last for 20 years to be "cheaper"). In the end, it's a gamble, and I'm not convinced that paying a factor of X more increases your chance of not getting crap by that much.

In fact, I've been quite happy with most products, cheap or otherwise, and the occasional disappointment is much less of a problem when you buy cheap.

denton-scratch
I'm just pissed off with owning stuff taking up space that doesn't work. I REALLY don't need a washing machine that doesn't work taking up space in my home.

You're quite right: price is not a good guide to quality. But I am beginning to think that "consumer" products fail much sooner than "industrial" products. So I'm thinking that my next utility room will be kitted out with industrial washers. Stuff the "consumer" stuff where it don't shine.

Jun 21, 2019 · imode on Nitinol Engines (1992)
We already have this unique method via Nichrome wire. You can see a really neat application of this in a common toaster here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OfxlSG6q5Y
dirktheman
Technology Connections is my favorite YouTube channel. He's just so good in explaining the technological intricacies of everyday things, and his humor is so wonderfully snarky. I highly recommend turning on the subtitles as well, he puts a lot of effort in them.
greypowerOz
"oh, god... he has a third one"

excellent writing and delivery, and yes, usually an easter egg or two in the CC ;)

> since when does actual real-life toast smoothly rise and fall again?

Perhaps the inspiration came from the Sunbeam Radiant Control toaster:

https://youtu.be/1OfxlSG6q5Y

Unlike modern toasters which rudely attempt to catapult your toast into orbit, the Sunbeam gracefully and almost silently presents your toast with the love and care it deserves.

ComputerGuru
More importantly, the slider on it doesn't control time but rather doneness. It gages the reflectivity of the surface to determine how brown the item has become, meaning my frozen Eggo and my refrigerated sliced bread both come out how I want them without having to play with the dial each time.

But my, does it feel more fragile than my old Chinesium toaster!

ken
OK, getting off topic, but: we had this toaster when I was a kid, and I hated everything about it. This is the worst toaster I ever used.

Getting it to engage was super finicky. I never saw anybody get it to work on the first try. You often had to whack it down pretty hard to make it work, while other times a light touch was sufficient. You could tell when someone was using it from across the house because you heard a metallic "whang, whang, whang, whang!", at various volumes, as they tried to get it to trigger.

Going up was super slow. (In his video, he shows it at "6x" or "12x" speed so viewers don't fall asleep.) Who would ever want that? It's done toasting. Don't make me wait 10 seconds to get my toast. Lots of singed fingers from impatient people reaching in to get their food.

The sensor wasn't very good, either. There was a razor thin margin where you'd get reasonable toast, and it was almost all the way to the "light" end. At even 25% to "dark", you'd get a block of charcoal. I'd set it all the way at "light", and toast my bread twice, if needed, because that was safest.

Lack of a manual up/down lever makes everything worse. It means you need to use the special "ONE SLICE" slot when you only have one slice. It also means if you see your bread start to catch fire (yeah), there's no easy way to get it out in a hurry. You could push the lightness all the way to "light" and hold it there (I think that was the official way), but that was unreliable. Usually, we'd just unplug it.

Also, as he notes in the video, the bread guides don't move so about all you can fit in here is a small generic white slice, and the outside gets as hot as the inside so be careful not to touch it.

This is the 2013 Mac Pro of toasters: very pretty, very clever, and a thermal nightmare. If I had infinite money and space, I'd buy one to show off, and never use it.

teh_klev
> You could tell when someone was using it from across the house because you heard a metallic "whang, whang, whang, whang!", at various volumes, as they tried to get it to trigger.

Lolol....reminds me of our first family toaster from the 70's.

But my dreams of owning one of these are now shattered :)

A real engineer would use no microcontrollers, and leverage the physical properties of the materials at hand to automatically lower and raise the toast. https://youtu.be/1OfxlSG6q5Y
Maybe they can use this design (made of modern parts, of course): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1OfxlSG6q5Y
Apr 19, 2019 · 1 points, 0 comments · submitted by anonymfus
HN Theater is an independent project and is not operated by Y Combinator or any of the video hosting platforms linked to on this site.
~ [email protected]
;laksdfhjdhksalkfj more things
yahnd.com ~ Privacy Policy ~
Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipisicing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.