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North Hills Monthly

What Home Discoveries Have Made a Big Difference in Our Lives?

Feb 27, 2015 06:37PM ● By Charles Reichblum

Ever think about what was missing from our homes and lives in earlier times? Let’s start by supposing that you lived in the United States in the mid-1800s or before. You couldn’t watch TV or listen to the radio, or go to a movie or listen to recorded music. None of these things existed then.

You couldn’t call anybody—there were no phones. There were no computers or video games. No electric lights, no automobiles, no airplanes.

There were no big league baseball games to follow. The National and American Leagues in baseball hadn’t been created yet, and the NFL, NBA and NHL didn’t exist.

Even in more modern times, it’s surprising to realize how long it took something like air conditioning to come to homes in America. It may seem hard to believe now, but virtually no home in America had air conditioning any time before World War II.

Air conditioning was invented in the early 1900s, but not for the purpose of cooling homes. It was originally developed by a man named Willis Carrier to control humidity in printing plants so that paper would not expand or contract while going through the printing presses.

Only later, in the 1920s, did air conditioning come to some stores and then to theaters, but it didn’t generally come to offices, automobiles or homes until the late 1940s. There were a lot of sweltering days in homes, offices and cars before that.

Even something as relatively recent as microwave ovens took a long time to get into homes. When microwave ovens first came out after World War II, they were as big as refrigerators, weighed more than 700 pounds and cost several thousand dollars. And those first microwaves weren’t even made for homes, but for restaurants.

When the first home microwave ovens finally began appearing in American kitchens, they were still rather bulky and very expensive. But gradually, manufacturers learned how to reduce their size and cost, and ultimately, those former giant microwaves got much smaller. But it wasn’t until the 1970s and ‘80s that microwaves started to appear in many homes, beginning a revolution in the way that people prepared food.

Dr. Knowledge is heard on KDKA and the CBS radio network with his “Knowledge in a Nutshell” feature, and is author of the “Knowledge in a Nutshell” book series. His web site is