The Honeywell Kitchen Computer of 1969

My daughter gave me an authentic hardcopy of Life Magazine of December 12, 1969, featuring the Apollo 12 Moon Landing on the cover. Under the Parting Shots section at the end, the magazine gives suggestions for Christmas presents to the discriminating shopper.

Honeywell Kitchen Computer
[click to enlarge] – Source Life Magazine of December 12, 1969
The caption underneath states:

Honeywell kitchen computer. For menus, budgets and other household calculations. With a two-week course in programming. $10,600. — Neiman-Marcus

What was I thinking back in 1969? I didn’t buy a machine that spewed reams of tractor-feed paper all over my kitchen, helping me solve these pesky menu and budget problems in my kitchen.

Estimates are that a dollar in 1969 would have the buying power of six dollars today. That kitchen computer would have set me back about $65,000 of today’s purchasing power, about the price of a luxury automobile, the down-payment to a very nice house, or a hell of a vacation.

Neiman Marcus didn’t actually sell a single one of these machines, even though one existed. It’s in a museum now.

According to Wikipedia, it had about 4,000 to 32,000 bytes of memory. That would be enough to store about 1/200th of a single average digital photograph that we take with our iPhones every day.

The Dumbest Design Innovation Ever

My award for the worst, dumbest, most asinine, idiotic product innovation ever goes to a ball-point pen.

If there is one product in our society that does not need any more innovation, it’s the pen. Yet, marketing companies seem to be hell-bent on creating ever more clever designs and add gimmicks to pens so they can be sold in bulk to company marketing departments in order to be given away at conferences. There must be 100 pens to every human in the United States, and that’s not counting the ones still in boxes at Costco and Staples.

I found several of these pens in our company’s cabinet in the conference room where we keep extra supplies. I don’t know where they came from, and I can’t identify the manufacturer. They also have no marketing message. Perhaps they are teaser products to get us to buy lots of them – which we definitely won’t do.

Pen 1

When I first looked at this pen in the image above, nothing struck me as unusual. It felt particularly light, being made all out of plastic, but otherwise I didn’t think it was anything special – until I started using it.

When I clicked on the button at the end, the point came out in the front, so far so good. However, I was not able to retract the point again by clicking on the button, as is customary with about all other pens in the universe. The designers of these pens wanted to be clever.

Pen 2

As you can see in the image above (blue arrow), the point extends and the pen is now ready to write. The button (green arrow) is pushed in. I had to check the pen carefully to figure out how to retract the point again. Then I noticed that the pen was transparent, and I saw a little clear plastic triangle attached to the clip (red arrow). When I pressed on the clip, it released a little spring in the body of the pen, which in turn retracted the point and the button popped back out, ready for another cycle.

I thought that this was a fairly complicated mechanism to accomplish the simple task of retraction and it would certainly confuse the user by forcing him to resort to pushing on the clip to make this happen. That would be like making a car user recline the seat to open the gas tank. Huh?

Then I realized that the little triangle would probably get in the way of using the clip to put the pen into a breast pocket or the inside pocket of a jacket. The little triangle would certainly get in the way.

So I tried it.

Pen 3

Pop! The clip broke off the first time I tried to put the pen into my shirt pocket, because I had to pull out the clip with my fingernail for the fabric to slip over it. The little triangle point release mechanism got in the way.

So now I have a pen that’s trashed. The clip is broken off and will soon be lost. The plastic stub where the clip was now has a sharp edge that scratches the hand when I use the pen to actually WRITE. I cannot clip the pen into my pocket anymore – it has no more clip. And worst of all, with the clip gone, the retract mechanism is broken. Now I must use my fingernail just right where the little triangle used to go to retract the point.

In summary, this little clever innovation made sure that the pen would be totally destroyed pretty much the first time anyone actually would use it to write – which is exactly what happened to me.



Cosmetically Challenged Peaches

We bought a box of organic peaches. They tasted great and worked wonderful in smoothies. Then I noticed the sign on the box:


I didn’t know that peaches could be cosmetically challenged.

First, I didn’t notice anything wrong with them, they looked like fine peaches. Perhaps it was because they were organic and therefore not polished in some way?

Second, I thought that politically correct descriptions applied to people only. I didn’t realize fruit could be offended, too.

Let me have a go at it:

  • Black peaches, yellow peaches, brown peaches….
  • Soft peaches, juicy peaches, splotchy peaches….
  • Fermented peaches….
  • Rotten peaches, rotten in the sun….

Ah, now I feel better.


Milestone Moments in a Man’s Life

Recently I went to the doctor to diagnose a problem with my shoulder. The doctor I had seen last in my local clinic was no longer there, so I just signed up with a random new doctor, Dr. S. – a woman. When she walked into the examination room where I waited, it struck me like never before. This doctor was a young Indian woman, no more than five feet tall, definitely half my age, definitely no older than my own daughter.

My doctor is younger than my daughter.

That made me think about my curious habit of measuring my own age by milestones that occurred in my life, such as these:

Age 6: I am now in school and I am so much older than these other babies that stay home when I leave in the morning.

Age 11: Prep school. Those upperclassmen look like men, with beards and all.

Age 15: The Playboy centerfolds look like mature women.

Age 18: I am an adult now. I can do anything I want. Yet, I have no money, so I can do nothing at all. Help me out, mom.

Age 20: The Playboy centerfolds are my age. Holy moly!

Age 22: I just went to a party where most of the people present are young high school teachers. Geez, I am old enough to hobnob with high school teachers!

Age 24: I am the young guy in the room at work.

Age 26: The Playboy centerfolds look like young ditzes.

Age 28: I have a child. My life as I know it is over.

Age 30: I have two children, my life as I know it is really over. It’s now going to be twenty years of this.

Age 36: The president of the United States is only ten years older than I.

Age 40: The Playboy centerfolds could be my daughters. I had better stop buying Playboy.

Age 45: I am the oldest guy in the room at work. Everybody listens to me.

Age 52: The president of the United States is five years younger than I. Shit! What happened to my life?

Age 56: My doctor is younger than my daughter!

In no time I’ll be older than George Burns!

Facemakers for Korean Beauties

KoreanFacesLook at these Korean women. Do they not all look very similar? It’s almost like looking at the same model, using different hair styles, makeup and clothes.

They are actually all in the same Korean beauty pageant.

We Westerners say that all Asians “look the same,” don’t we?

This is because they all get the exact same plastic surgeries and the surgeons follow the same formulas for noses and eyes and everything else they had done, including fillers, cheek implants, forehead implants, eye jobs, nose jobs, jaw reduction, breast jobs, calf muscle implants, and fat grafting. Every single one of them has had nose and eye surgery.  Even the makeup they use is the same.

Apparently, Koreans can’t tell them apart either.  They are jokingly referred to as “Samsung Robots.”

Once they become mothers, however, the problem will be that none of their daughters will look anything like them. They’ll have their natural faces.

I am really thankful that I am not a Korean Beauty.

Grocery Loyalty Cards

I just went to Vons (one of our local supermarkets) and bought a few incidentals. The bill came to a little over $24. The checker asked me for my Vons card. Since I don’t like to carry all these bulky cards around with me when I only use them very occasionally, I keep them in the ashtray – yes, the ashtray – of my car. What else is an ashtray good for? But I always forget to bring the card into the store.

I told her I had forgotten it in my car. She asked me to type in my phone number instead. I told her that I didn’t remember what phone number I had long ago when I got that card. So she wrote on my receipt the amount of the refund, four dollars, signed it, and asked me to bring it back the next time I came to shop.

Two things occurred to me:

1. If I can’t remember to bring the darn card into the store, how am I going to remember that I have a receipt with a $4 bonus on it?

2. I paid $4 too much for my stuff.

I resolved I should go to stores that don’t play this silly game, and let me have a fair price in the first place. All that happened in that store is that I got shafted for an extra $4 because I can’t stand carrying around with me a fat wad of loyalty cards for every business I sometimes patronize.

Seventeen KFC Forks

Sunday night. Nothing in the fridge. No appetite for pizza. I went to KFC to get takeout (occasionally that just hits the spot). The bill was $12.91 for two “meals.” When I get home and unpacked, I found the usual forks they give you for takeout. The clerk apparently wanted to make sure I had enough:

We don’t even use these when eating at home. We have real forks here.

I wonder if the owner or manager of this KFC store ever wonders why they are using so many forks for so few customers?




Bad Trunk in Toyota Venza

I rented a Toyota Venza, a small SUV. Here is a picture of the trunk:

The material of the bottom of the trunk is some kind of plastic, slippery as Teflon. I put my suitcase in there and it slipped around constantly, making a terrible ruckus. I was not even able to change lanes on the freeway without the suitcase slamming right and left. The slightest acceleration made it crash against the door. Gently stopping at a traffic light, it slammed into the back of the seats. This got so annoying that I had to pull over and take the suitcase and put it in the backseat.

What were the Toyota engineers thinking when they designed the trunk material like this?