In 1964 Walt Disney created the Carousel of Progress attraction in conjunction with General Electric which showcased the typical American home and all its gadgets. A circular stage was divided into 6 acts depicted by an Audio-Animatronic family, complete with Rover the dog.
Starting at the first act, just before 1900, the family were delighted with their new ‘wash-day marvel’ which now meant it only took Mother five hours to do a clothes wash. Skipping forward 20 years electricity became a major feature to the home with an electric iron and electric lights. The 1940s Act saw a radio combined with an automatic record player and Grandma got a new hearing aid. Finally, being that the attraction was completed in the 1960s, they could only imagine the future scene but weren’t too far off what we have today, with talk of a ‘climate-controlled environment’, high-definition television, virtual reality games and voice activated appliances.
This wonderful attraction got us thinking about the Australian home in the Past, the Present and the Future:
1950s – 1980s
Mid 20th Century Australia came into economic prosperity after the World War II and enjoyed great technological development. Domestic appliances were aplenty and hire-purchase schemes helped the public pay for them.
“During the 1950s, the role of women was generally considered to be that of the ‘homemaker’. Bright television and magazine advertisements encouraged women to stay at home and create a domestic haven for their families using the new appliances on offer. These devices promised to raise standards of living and release housewives from the shackles of household chores.
Electric stoves, refrigerators, toasters and kettles revolutionised the kitchen, and vacuum cleaners and washing machines shaved hours off time spent cleaning. Women could enjoy more leisure time while still creating a clean, comfortable home for their families.” [Skiwrik.com]
The 60s saw mass production of said appliances turning them from a luxury to an essential in the home. With these products lasting the test of time, manufacturers realised consumers would be set for life so the products’ quality slowly dwindled forcing people to replace appliances rather than repair.
Food preparation in Australia reformed in the 70s-80s with the popularity of the microwave oven, the food processor and the blender. Cooking became quick and easy! Outside of the kitchen technology brought us novelty goods such as ‘The Clapper’ and the ‘Walkman’.
1990s – 2015
From the 1990s we enjoyed an automated life with telephone answering machines, TVs and VCR players, computers and cappuccino makers. We truly turned into a ‘throwaway society’ with outdated appliances being chucked out to the kerb to sit out their days in a landfill site. Technology was advancing so quickly that it was a battle between improvements on old appliances and the invention of totally new gadgets that kept our homes fully stocked – not to mention the appliances that meant we didn’t even need to stay at home, like the mobile phone and pagers.
“Despite owning more appliances, Australians in the 1990s spent less time preparing meals than in the past…many Australians ate a large proportion of take-away or supermarket convenience meals, and spent just 30 minutes in the kitchen each day.” [Skwirk.com]
The Noughties saw the turn of the century and the introduction of further enhanced technological appliances like the Roomba iRobot vacuum cleaner and the healthier ‘Air Fryer’ version of the traditional deep-fat fryer. Mobile phones got smaller and smaller, computers got quicker and quicker and the microwave was used more frequently.
Technology is forever advancing and our homes as such will see gadgets exist left, right and centre. Some of the gadgets that are in the not too distant future include the transparent TV, a floor plan light switch to control lights for every room in the house from the one spot, solar powered media centres, self-sterilising door handles and a Document Extractor: a printer/screen combo. With our time becoming more and more precious, inventors around the globe are working to keep bringing incredible items to our daily lives that in a few years time we’ll think ‘how did we ever live without’ them!