Honeywell's Kitchen Computer: the 1969 behemoth that didn't sell a single unit

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41 Responses to “Honeywell's Kitchen Computer: the 1969 behemoth that didn't sell a single unit”

  1. MissCellania says:

    Replace your cookbook for 10 grand!

    • blueelm says:

      10,000 and you still need a wife.

      (actually, it occurs to me that even a machine can’t compete with free human labor very well)

      • Not even free but cheep human labor still wins out. Sure, we could design and build servant robots but they’d cost a couple hundred grand a piece. Meanwhile, for a tenth of that cost, you can pay a human housekeeper.

        Even economy of scale doesn’t work in this instance, because it’s still cheaper to press gang a village in Micronesia than it is to automate a factory floor in Lansing. All our utopian technocratic dreams fail when confronted with the naked efficiency of capitalism.

    • Glippiglop says:

      Even worse – inflation adjustment brings it to a whopping $64,123.

  2. horn5555 says:

    Of course these N-M catalog offerings were meant to generate publicity back in the day for N-M.  They had little or no expectation of selling any, though on occasion one would sell, sort of like the filthy rich version of buying an item featured on Regretsy.

    • M says:

      Thank you SO MUCH for the Regretsy reference.     Had never heard of it so zipped on over;  especially loved the “passiveaggressivenotes.com” site.    

      I haven’t laughed so hard in quite awhile.

    • Halloween_Jack says:

       Yep–Hammacher-Schlemmer does (or at least did) the same thing.

  3. Jonathan Badger says:

    And a decade later after this, in the early 1980s, the two most common advertising claims for selling home computers were that you could use them to balance your checkbook and to keep track of recipes. I don’t know anyone who actually did either with their computer.

    • jimkirk says:

      That reminded me of some TV commercials for Amiga Computers back in the 90s.  Their main message was that you could do things at home that you had never dreamed of before; composing and playing music, creating videos, and ultimately launching your whole house into space…

  4. margaretpoa says:

    It would have made a great kitchen island though… if it was flatter and had less friable electronics. Because that thing would have been almost immediately covered in measuring cups, mixing bowls and ingredients.

  5. jandrese says:

    I like how even in the picture the lady is looking at the thing going “What the hell am I supposed to do with this?  I had better not touch any of the buttons.”

  6. winkybb says:

    For us, it has turned full circle. Using computers to collate all your recipes was one of the persistent but seemingly dumb ideas used to promote early home PCs, but we now cook almost exclusively from computer-accessed recipes. They’re not ours, but come from the myriad of recipe websites out there. The promise has been fulfilled. Now where are those flying cars?

  7. Dan Huby says:

    The article reckons it did sell a few units (“People did actually buy this machine, but not very many people.”) but just not via the department store. Although it says the one in the museum is the only one in existence. Hmm.

  8. The thing looks beautiful, though.  I’d love to have one to make my place look a little like Number 2′s Office in The Prisoner.

  9. Khordas Salamander says:

    At least they were willing to take the leap that a housewife could learn to program a computer.  Given the time, that sounds like a pretty big concession.

  10. nixiebunny says:

    Now that I’ve read a description of that computer, I can finally see how it fits into the package. It’s a 5 inch tall rack-mount computer, similar to a NOVA, with a weird curvy skin wrapped around it to appeal to the late sixties mod fashion. It’s a rather confusing package, because it looks just like a NOVA printing terminal, yet it doesn’t do that.

    They could have packaged it like the Tektronix 4010, with a printing terminal (a la Teletype) in the top and the electronics in the pedestal. Then it may have had a hope of being useful, although it would have weighed close to 200 lbs.

  11. oasisob1 says:

    But can it run *?

    *Doom, Crysis, Halo, etc.

  12. Nadreck says:

    Wow, typing in octal codes on the front panel – that sure takes me back!  When I was in University I’d occasionally run across something such as a NOVA or PDP-11 that you’d have to toggle in the boot addresses on.  I once met the last surviving General Electric Mainframe (8K in main memory!  20-bit words! Birthplace of BASIC!) genius who could play the much longer sequences needed there on the front panel like a church organist.

    Of course, when the Honeywell thing came out it was after a decades long cycle of miniaturisation.  By comparison, look at the IBM SSEC, which wasn’t even a computer, just a scientific calculator, but took up an auditorium 1949.  http://www.columbia.edu/cu/computinghistory/ssec.html  Coolest control panel ever though: http://jenniebewes.com/blog/76

    • Marc45 says:

       Yeah, I miss all those blinking lights and switches…not to mention the warm fuzzy feeling I got from a full deck of Hollerith cards.

  13. chgoliz says:

    One of the things I have appreciated about the internet is how I’ve been able to fill in at least some of the gaps my grandparents didn’t get around to teaching me about home economics.  I know more than many of my generation (Boomer), which puts me lightyears ahead of the following generations, but it still amazes me how much more knowledge was wired into the brains of people born in the late 1800′s to the early 1900′s.  Computers STILL haven’t caught up to the sophistication of their wisdom, but enough people are sharing what they’ve learned that at least there’s the sense that it won’t all be lost.

    So, when I see something like this, what I see is a bunch of guys in a conference room having not the slightest clue how much more complicated cooking for a family is in comparison to the very limited functionality of a computer at the time.

  14. TonyF says:

    The Computer History Museum in Mountain View, CA has one on display. I believe the only one known to exist. http://www.computerhistory.org/collections/accession/X579.85

  15. At least they tried. Somebody had to be first with a home computer. Full marks for effort.

  16. Halloween_Jack says:

    It doesn’t look like it could possibly fit in that tiny kitchen (although it’s not actually that small by the standards of the time), but I could see someone fitting an original-style Macintosh with Hypercard in there. (Actor/comedian/magician Harry Anderson, an early Mac adopter, once compared its design to an average Krups appliance.) 

  17. oldtaku says:

    Well of course you’re not going to be able to sell that monstrosity to any ladies. They should have asked Samsung or Sony. You need to make it pink.

  18. piminnowcheez says:

    this picture makes me really hope that Mad Men makes it into the ’70′s.

  19. nancy bee says:

     What I noticed is the two baskets full of actual food- green onions- lettuce- peppers- and a bunch more. No prepared food.

  20. stayzuplate says:

    Worst advertising ever.  The woman is trapped behind the machine in her little kitchen.

  21. gwailo_joe says:

    Maybe because I’m buzzed but the whole contraption looks like a giant cybernetic ducks’ head on a pedestal.

    And the woman is patting it on it’s widdle head…

    While I imagine it would be more useful should it swivel and shoot lasers from his pointy bill; if it had self-awareness then…but that apron!

    So…Prominent.  So…Detailed.  man, i am high…

  22. Fred Ricardo says:

    The idea was right, the technology was not there. In 1968 Honeywell was selling the H800 which still had tube circuits in it and the size of a small house.

    This is also the company that invented the internet hubs, (mini 316) and bought the Multics computers from GE and invented the first relational Database in the ’70s..

    Now Honeywell is gone, bought by Allied-Signal who kept the name because their reputation was so bad.

  23. Frank Diekman says:

    I love how it looks as if it can right of the bridge of the U.S.S. Enterprise.

  24. I wrote this in perl in 7 lines

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