RT Cunningham


Modern Appliances of All Sorts - How Many of Them Do We Really Need?

modern appliancesA bunch of modern appliances won’t really make our lives easier or more meaningful. That’s my opinion and I’m sticking with it. Appliances come in many forms, with most being used in or around the kitchen and dining areas of the home.

I have to admit, I grew up without some modern appliances, but I’m not so old as to have done without them completely.

My Definition of Modern Appliances

My definition will probably differ from someone who came a generation after me, as well as someone from the generation before. In my case, I consider anything invented or perfected after the end of World War II (1945) to be somewhat modern. Really modern, however, is anything created after the home computer age began (1974).

There are probably some appliances people think are modern, but only the later iterations are actually modern.

Coffee Maker

Many homes have a coffee maker of some sort in them. It’s not really necessary these days due to the high availability of instant coffee. With instant coffee, you can just use boiling hot water, sugar and creamers as needed. My first coffee maker was a percolator.

Getting a good coffee maker is easy in the United States. It’s a bit more difficult in the Philippines. I see a lot of instant coffee being marketed in the Philippines while it’s ground coffee in the United States.


According to the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Josephine Cochran invented the dishwasher in 1886. That’s about 10 years before my now deceased grandmother (on my father’s side) was born. According to the page for it a Wikipedia, the dishwasher didn’t become commonplace until the 1970s. You couldn’t tell it from most of the homes where I lived during that decade.

My parents never invested in a dishwasher. They didn’t need to. They already had nine dishwashers (their children) available most of the time. The first home I owned, in 1994, came with a dishwasher preinstalled along with other electrical appliances. I never used it. The home I own in the Philippines doesn’t have one and I’m fine with that. I prefer washing dishes by hand and drying them with a towel before putting them away.

There’s an ancient joke that asks, “Why do women wear white wedding dresses? So the dishwasher matches the rest of the kitchen appliances.” Yes, it’s lame, but it worked at one time. Although many kitchen appliances do indeed come in white, you can find them in other colors as well. My mother once owned a refrigerator in the avocado (green) color. It was a 70s thing, I’m sure.

Icebox and Refrigerator

The first icebox was invented in 1802. The icebox is the non-mechanical precursor to the modern refrigerator. In fact, my mother used to call her 1960s-era refrigerator by that name. It wasn’t “frost-free” like the more modern refrigerators, requiring it to be defrosted every week or so.

Since I left home in 1978, I’ve used a variety of refrigerators in various locations. The smallest one was the one I used in an apartment on Okinawa in Japan in 1987. It was smaller than the average refrigerator you can see in most hotel rooms today. It had to be defrosted every month or so.

Microwave Oven

This is another thing my parents didn’t own. Well, not until I was long gone from the family home. Microwave ovens work best for reheating leftovers and cooking things designed to be cooked with them. With a family of 11, we never had any leftovers. I can’t recall anything that was designed to be cooked in a microwave oven until I was already in the military, in the crazy eighties.

I knew people (deceased sometime in the last 14 years) who swore off microwave oven cooking because it changed the molecular structure (like UHT milk). It didn’t help them live any longer than anyone else who didn’t. Although there are other ways to cook and reheat food, it’s usually quicker and more convenient to use a microwave oven.

Although invented in 1945, I bought my first microwave oven while I was on the island of Okinawa in Japan in 1987 or 1988. It was a fairly large unit, with the “Goldstar” brand name (now “LG”) on it. It still worked when I gave it away in 2006. Every microwave oven I owned since then was smaller and didn’t last long. I’m pretty sure the small one in our house in the Philippines now is broken (it doesn’t turn).

Stove or Range

My parents and many people I know still use gas stoves to cook on. The gas burners are usually above a gas oven. There’s usually a drawer at the bottom to store pots and pans in.

My first house, as well as my second house in the Philippines, had electric ranges. Exactly like the gas versions but using electricity instead. I now have a dirty kitchen attached to the back of the house and in it, a two-burner gas stove on the counter next to the sink. The electric range was replaced when the inside kitchen was remodeled. I’m pretty sure the replacement is a gas model.

Washing Machine and Dryer

The first washing machine I saw, as a child, was a hand-cranked round tub with a double-roller device above it to squeeze out the water. The dryer was a couple of clotheslines strung between two t-shaped poles. My parents bought a washing machine in the 70s and their first dryer in the 80s.

The first modern washing machines were top-loading. The front-loading models came years later. They’re more efficient today, using microcontrollers to manage the timing.

Some people still wash clothing by hand and string the clothing on lines to dry. It’s more prevalent in countries like the Philippines than in the United States. One of my in-laws washed my clothes this way for a couple of years after I moved to Olongapo in 2006.

Hot Air Machines, Popcorn Poppers, Rice Cookers and Steamers

Josie, my wife, used steamers in the past for making something called siopao but it’s been years. Nowadays, she’ll just use the steamer part that comes with modern rice cookers if she ever gets the urge again.

I once bought a hot air machine for my mother as a Mother’s Day gift. I have no idea if she ever used it. My older son uses something like it to cook with and the food is always delicious. He prepared at least two dishes with it when we stayed with him at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida in 2018 and 2019.

Josie wants a popcorn popper for our house in Olongapo. I don’t see the point as long as we can get microwaveable popcorn to use in a fully functioning microwave oven. We’ve never owned a popper before and maybe it’s because she wants to make a lot of it all at once. We have dozens of relatives living next door to us over there.

Blenders, Food Processors, Mixers, Toasters and Toaster Ovens

Did I miss anything else? Over the years, Josie and I have used blenders, mixers and toasters. Others in our children’s families have used food processors and toaster ovens. I can’t begin to talk about their beginnings.

It seems like when I finally get used to what already exists, something new comes along to shatter all my preconceptions. I can only imagine what the next one will be.

Photo Attribution: FotoRieth from Pixabay

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By RT Cunningham
June 15, 2020
House and Home