Before we got smart



Think back 10, 20 or even 50 years and it’s incredible to think how far we’ve come in terms of smart technology that improves the comfort of our homes, along with our lifestyle.

So, let’s take a walk down memory lane and look at some of the novel, fascinating and intriguing products that were par for the course before we got smart.

The manual TV channel change

Long before smart TVs and even remote controls, one member of a family had the tedious task of traipsing across the lounge room to fiddle with the TV dial in a bid to change the channel.

In reality, that wasn’t so much of a challenge because there were only a couple of freely available channels to choose from in Australia.

Then came the remote control, revolutionizing the way we manage electronic devices.

The first TV remote was invented in 1950 and connected to the television using a wire. Known as ‘Lazy bone’ it allowed users to control their TV from across the room without leaving the comfort of their chair. However, it also posed a tripping hazard, and was replaced by the world’s first wireless remote control (the Flashmatic) in about 1956.

This first wireless control relied on shining a beam of light at precisely the right spot on the TV and was soon superseded by a mechanical remote with the lofty title ‘Zenith Space Command’ that used ultrasound to change the channel.

Now of course, we can program our TVs to come on when we want, record what we wish and even access the internet complete with streaming services like Netflix.

It’s a far cry from finding the right frequency by walking backwards and forwards across a room.

The doorbell and intercoms

It’s hard to imagine a time before the humble doorbell alerted us that a guest had arrived at the front door, but indeed there was one.

In fact, before the electric doorbell, large houses and estates dedicated much effort to ensuring they were notified of new arrivals and could be alerted to occupant’s needs using complicated mechanical bell and pulley systems to “summon a servant”.

The first precursor to the electric doorbell arrived in the early 1800s using compressed air to sound an alarm, while the first actual doorbell using electric wires was invented in 1831.

By the 1900s electric doorbells were commonplace, and were then superseded by wireless radio doorbells.

Now, doorbells rarely get a second thought but are a commonplace smart home edition featuring intercoms, video and even the ability to let someone into your house remotely.  

Automatic appliances

Every year the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas unveils increasingly intuitive appliances and gadgetry – from smart ovens to fridges that can order products over the internet by themselves.

But long before these new smart additions, inventors were developing all sorts of weird and wonderful contraptions in a bid to simplify our lives.

There was the automatic tea maker known as the Teasmade, which was first invented in 1902. A of course there was the humble toaster which has been steadily honed and redesigned since it was first invented in 1893.

The Teasmade was a nifty little gadget marketed as “a clock that makes tea”. Basically, an electric kettle set into action by an alarm clock, it first became readily available in about the 1930s and reached peak production in the 1960s and 70s.

Meanwhile, toasters have been evolving since the turn of the 20th century. Initial versions of the toaster only cooked bread on one side and required careful watching. In 1925 the first pop-up toaster that could cook bread on both sides was developed, while the first internet-connected toaster was created way back in 1990.

The time switch

Just a couple of generations ago, the time switch helped transform the way we managed appliances plugged into power points, allowing devices to switch on and off based on a timer.

These groundbreaking little gadgets were widely used to control things like lighting when people were away from their homes in a bid to make it look like someone was home.

Initial time switches were first introduced in abut 1945 and used commercially for electric signs, store window lighting, apartment hall lights, stokers, and oil and gas burners.

Then in 1952 a consumer version was created. Time switches were generally plugged into a wall power point and then devices were plugged into them. The operated on either a mechanical, electromechanical and later electronic timer to turn devices on and off.

More recently time switches were installed into appliances offering convenience like the TV sleep function, which automatically shuts your TV off after a set period.

Now, timers are easily built into smart home technology allowing devices to turn on and off automatically, or to be controlled remotely via tablets and smart phones.

About Lera Smart Home Solutions

Lera Smart Home Solutions is a leading installer of smart home technology in the greater Sydney region. Our team boasts over 20 years’ experience in IT networking, programming and the electrical industry.

We have sourced the most reliable and cost efficient solutions from around the world to provide the very best in smart home solutions, and work with our clients to understand their needs.

You can learn more about transforming your house into a smart home here, access our smart home calculators here or contact us directly for further advice.