NNTP-Posting-Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 12:16:24 -0600
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2003 12:19:20 -0600
From: gary drummond
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Subject: A new toaster design? Is it worth it?
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Awhile back I saw a nice article about the differences between letting
an engineer and a "computer scientist" design a taoaster. I thought
knew the site, but the article is gone or I lost the link.
I just bought a new toaster for my parents. I have one and it works
fine for me. I guess I should have checked it out like a new product
before I bought it for them. It didn't do so well at their house, and
here's the story, but If it had a uC in it I could have posted it
as "live" example of marketing VS engineering on a uC site/newsgroup...
The old standard toaster will heat toast until it reaches a certain
temperature (darkness), using a dark control, which pops the toast up.
This doesn't seem like a great deal of engineering, until you try
to design one. The heater element must bake the bread until the
temperature of "something" releases the catch holding
the toast down. Easy if you know metalurgy that is. Once they had
it figured out, nothing much changed for 30+ years except adding
2 slices to the toaster load.
Now it's the electronic age, and we should do better, or so I
thought. I bought a "NEW Classic" which also handled bagels. It
had a defrost button "Icon of toast with snowflake in it", a cancel
button "Cancel", and a temperature/darkness button. It worked for me.
The only weird thing was the dark control only rotated in one
I should have tested it for the way my parents used it. The second
two pieces of toast came out too light if you -took out the
first two, then added the second two. Adjusting it so the next
two came out OK made the first two in the morning burn! Bummer.
Making a blank piece of toast, and wasting energy, makes the
rest come out OK, unless you wait too long between loads.
To make things worse, if it started to burn on the "classic" all
you had to do was lift the lever to pop it up. On the "Classic"
(spelling and case means something here-classic=old, Classic=new!)
you had to push the "Cancel" button. My Dad forgot that and just
did the classic thing and forced the lever up. BAD THING...he broke
or bent something inside, and now it takes a GREAT deal of force
to push it down where it stays!
After taking it apart, I found that it was a circuitboard with an
electromagnet on it holding the toast/lever down. The circuitboard was
attached in guides and locked in place with hot glue! The temerature
sensor was a capacitor in a circuit that compared it with a colder
one on the other side of the board! I haven't traced the whole
circuit out, but I would guess it's a bridge circuit of some kind.
(There are 8 transistors, 3 Ecaps,1 ceramic cap+the two hot/cold caps,
4 diodes, 1 LED, 26 fixed and 2 variable resistors in the circuit.)
So far I have determined that my Dad 1)broke loose a hot glue
connection on the board/electromagnet 2)or(and) bent the lever
pulling it up (or the metal which contacted the magnet)
He did rotate the resistor in the wrong direction, but I have
no idea what that may have done, we had bad to start, and it's
still not working right. I might try to fix it but just for fun.
My "BIG" questions- Why design something, to replace an existing
product that doesn't work like the old one? Why use hot glue to
anchor a mechanical connection?
Both of my parents have bad eyesite and poor memories. They don't
understand "Icons", and the one on the "Classic" looked to them
like a circle with an X in it. Both the icon and the word "Cancel"
were too small for them to read without glasses.
Adding LARGE words (letters) would have let my parents use it
right. (OK, "Cancel/POPUP" and "[icon]/DEFROST")
Now I have spare parts, I've purchased a "real" toaster for my
parents, posted a note to myself to NEVER buy another product from
Toastmaster (MagiKitchen, Blodgett, Ctx,...), and vowed never to
buy another product that I don't test for all ages.
My letter to Toastmaster said to label it right (large letters)
for older folks or label the box like toys---
"FOR AGES 5-40, COMPUTER LITERATE, GOOD EYESIGHT, and MEMORY"