Our top ten electric labour saving devices of all time (including of course the electric knife sharpener!)

electric shaver

The discovery of electricity has made our modern lives very easy compared to our predecessors. It’s probably singlehandedly responsible for the current obesity epidemic – we don’t have to do any hard work any more.

We’ve given it a few minutes thought and come up with our list of the top ten electric labour saving domestic devices, based on our experience of using the previous equivalents (or at least having thought about what it must have been like). Have we missed any?

1) Electric knife sharpener
We have to put this one in don’t we? But it is very deserving of its spot, given how long it takes to sharpen a knife using the only method available before the invention of (good) electric knife sharpeners. Read our article on life in a butcher’s shop before electric knife sharpeners to see how much time it saves over conventional whetstone sharpening methods. Maybe not everyone is grateful, but a lot of butchers, chefs and serious home cooks certainly are. Read about some of the history of the electric knife sharpener here.

2) Electronic ignition
You need to get to work. It’s raining so you rush to your car and jump into the driver’s seat. But it’s 1910 and they haven’t invented electric ignition (or the electric starter motor) yet, so you have to jump out of the car with your crank handle and spend two minutes starting the engine. You arrive at work two minutes late, you’ve had a workout but you’re drenched. Put your hands together for Charles Kettering and Clyde Coleman from General Motors, inventors of the eletronic car ignition in 1911. It was subsequently patented by Kettering in 1915 and first fitted to a Cadillac. Although he invented numerous other automotive innovations (lacquer paint and leaded fuel for example), he also invented freon, which is the refrigerant unfortunately now best known for depleting the ozone layer.

3) Electric garage door opener
As above, but with slightly less of a workout. The electric garage door opener was invented in 1926 by CG Johnson of Hartford City Indiana.

4) Electric shaver
This saves around eight minutes in the morning, but in the morning eight minutes is a long time. The 1920s were clearly a busy time for electrical inventions, as the electric shaver was invented in 1928 by US company Schick.

5) TV remote control
The phrase ‘channel surfing’ would have meant nothing to anyone before 1950, when Zenith Radio Corporation produced the first TV remote control. Nikola Tesla in fact invented the first ever remote control, but had to wait until John Logie Baird invented the TV in 1925 for it to be of any use.

6) Electric toaster
Why waste your time staring at bread burning when you can let a machine do it for you. More time saving for mornings, when every second is precious. Invented in Edinburgh in Scotland in 1893 by Alan MacMasters.

7) Electric Kettle
Ditto. Although electric kettles were first introduced in 1893, the first fully automatic electric kettle wasn’t introduced until 1955 when Russell Hobbs unveiled its K1 model.

8) Electric Garden/Pruning Saw
If you have to cut up branches and logs with a normal saw or an axe, you will understand what a godsend these little electric devices are. Electric garden saws mean you don’t have to have biceps like Popeye to do a bit of gardening work, or if you do want biceps like Popeye, you know not to buy one. C Knight Erwin took out a patent on the electric tree pruning saw in 1966.

9) Food Processor
What used to be a mini workout for cakemakers is now just a push of a button. If you’ve seen the Blendtec YouTube videos, you’ll also know how much fun it is to blend all sorts of things in the name of advertising. Pierre Verdun invented the first food processor, the Le Magi-Mix (now known as the Magimix) in 1971.

10) Refrigerator
Before refrigerators you either had to buy fresh every day or have a cold part of house – a cellar for example – where you could keep your butter/cheese/meat etc. Nathaniel B Wales of Detroit invented the first electric refrigerator in 1918. You can manage without a refrigerator, but as many people who’ve been caught in an extended power cut can attest, it’s pretty hard. Modern life without a refrigerator or a TV can be hard, but you do read a lot more, play more games and have more interesting conversations. No thanks!

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