Gadget overdose


There's an interesting article in the Guardian about pointless technology (or rather, pointless gadgets). Despite being rather a techno-head and somewhat gadget-obsessed myself, I do agree with the majority of the points. Before I get too over excited about some new piece of hardware, I do try to sit the excitable geek in me down and have a long, serious chat about whether this particular gadget is really necessary. However, I am aware that my definition of "necessary" might not be the same as other people's (see my excitement over viewing my uptime on my T68i). The author, Stuart Jeffries, cites the slow uptake of 3G mobile phones as one example of technology that attempts to create a need rather than satisfy one.

I did have to take issue with the article on one point though. In a section deriding various useless bits of kit (TV glasses, anyone?) he includes the Dualit 4 slice toaster"

It costs £175 and combines a silvery retro-toaster look with four slots that can produce 130 slices an hour in your home. Ask yourself this, though: if you and your family need 130 slices of toast an hour, perhaps you should spend £175 on consulting a dietician instead. There's a six-slice version, but that's beyond a joke.

I have a Dualit toaster, a 2 slice model, which was a wedding present. Yes, they are expensive, but they are the very antithesis of a useless gadget; they do one thing — toast bread — and they do it extremely well, reliably and without pointless gimmicks. The toasters may have recently become fasionable (all that stainless steel, I expect), but Dualit has been making them for over 50 years, so they are hardly new gadgets. The "retro-toaster look" is genuine; it really is a retro toaster.

Before I got the Dualit, I seethed over a succession of poorly-made cheap toasters, which seemed to be manufactured to be disposable. Perhaps I was just unlucky, but I had 2 toasters in four years. The first was a rather cheap £20 job, so perhaps that wasn't entirely unexpected, but the next cost nearly £40. In both cases, the faults were caused by really stupid problems, which would have been cheap to fix if it was possible to replace the parts. In one, the thermostat in the flashy 'browning control' unit went, so that every slice was burnt to a cinder. In the other, the spring which popped the slices up (and also triggered the heating elements to switch off) broke, resulting in yet more carbonised toast. I felt terrible about just throwing the toaster away for the sake of a broken spring, but there was no way to replace such a simple part.

In contrast, the Dualit is as simple as it could possibly be. The elements are hard-wearing (and fully replaceable), the toast pops up using the world's simplest machine (a lever), and the browning control is a mechanical timer. Instead of letting a chip decide how brown your toast should be, you call upon your finest toast-making skills to judge whether to give it one or one-and-a-half minutes.

There's a reason Dualit have been making exactly the same toaster for 50 years: it works, it lasts and it can withstand a great deal of punishment in professional kitchens. I fail to see how that places it in the same category as an Aibo robot dog, or a go-cart lawn mower.