THE LAST HUNDRED YEARS: Household Technology by Daniel Cohen

THE LAST HUNDRED YEARS: Household Technology

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Though he acknowledges that some advances such as the TV-dinner are of dubious value, and that many others depend on energy consumption that can't long be sustained, the drift of Cohen's hundred-year survey is that nostalgia for the days of graceful homes and servants is misplaced: ""You"" would more likely have been a servant than have had them; Granny's cheerful bustling in the kitchen involved such drudgery as starting up the wood stove and hauling and heating water from the pump; Dad's chilly chores included visits to the basement coal furnace on rising and retiring; and most people of all classes bathed infrequently and smelled accordingly. The bulk of the book, though, is not an argument. In separate chapters Cohen traces a century's changes in the kitchen (the main advances being efficient layout, gas and electric stoves, and the electric refrigerator), the bathroom (""Now don't snicker""; city streets were open sewers without them), and in heating, lighting, shopping (the rise and fall of mail order), and home entertainment--the last of which has evolved from ""stereopticon slides and singing 'Daisy Bell' around the piano"" to TV news, video games, and the home computer that promises to transform life in the '80s. Realistically, except for this likely development, Cohen doesn't predict any glittering technological advances; major changes may be dictated by water and energy shortages and the declining opportunity for home ownership. His analysis of the interaction between custom and technology is sometimes simplistic or secondhand, but it makes for a readable summary which never bogs down into lists and mechanics.

Pub Date: Nov. 15th, 1982
Publisher: Evans