Originally Posted by photoguy
I love this story about making a toaster from scratch: Searching For Meaning In A Cheap Toaster : NPR
It's basically the cheapest, simplest appliance one could have, yet was still incredibly difficult to manufacture.
I often feel like almost everything technology related is like magic (i.e. clarks 3rd law "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic."). Beyond simple repairs of replacing parts modular parts, I can't fix or make anything despite my engineering background.
Great podcast. It really points out that we 'stand on the shoulders of giants'. Even a simple toaster requires iron ore, and that has to be formed to a very specific ni-chrome type wire, plus the plastics, spring metals etc. All of that was developed over many years, much research and much trial and error. It reminds me of the "I, Pencil" essay:
Now, I actually do
want to make a toaster myself (but I won't make the components from raw materials!)! I've been dissatisfied with the toasters I've bought, and the reviews I've read of the high $$$ are not encouraging.
I picture something more like a waffle maker. The hinged lid would automatically adjust for different thickness slices, just by gravity. So the elements would always be the same distance from the surface of the bread, so done-ness would be more predictable. And you would be able to see the toast through the elements on top (I suppose I'd need a tempered glass cover to make it marginally safer). I don't think done-ness can be totally predicted by time, so I want a visual.
And for a one off, I could use a separate dimmer control for the elements on each side (for a bagel setting). Hmmm, actually, that's not a cost issue, standard cheap light dimmers are rated for 600 watts, my purchased 2-slice toaster is only 750 watts, so I could control 2 600 W elements for a 1200 W toaster, which is about all you want to draw from a standard 15 Amp US outlet.
I need to move this up on my to do list - perfect toast is on its way!