[Humanist] 27.302 what difference a kitchen computer?

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Fri Aug 30 09:13:15 CEST 2013

                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 27, No. 302.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

        Date: Fri, 30 Aug 2013 08:08:13 +0100
        From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk>
        Subject: the curious return of the kitchen computer

Some time ago, in the house of friends in the New South Wales bush, I 
was introduced to the idea of a computer in the kitchen. I don't know to 
what extent they use the old desktop machine while cooking, but for 
looking things up during an ongoing discussion over the dinner table or 
in the sitting room, it seemed perfect. Then, later back home in London 
I began using my iPad for consulting recipes rather than printing them 
out. This iPad, whose role in my research has been usurped by a newer 
model, seemed perfect as a permanent fixture as my kitchen computer. I 
discovered that mounting brackets of various kinds are abundant, so as 
soon as the one I selected arrives, this old iPad will be installed as one.

Somewhere along the line I ran across the Honeywell Kitchen Computer of 
the 1960s, described and discussed by Paul Atkinson, "The Curious Case 
of the Kitchen Computer: Products and Non-Products in Design History", 
Journal of Design History 23/2 (2010): 163-79. The iPad is a very 
different piece of kit, but the early sighting of an essential role for 
computing, in an environment where menus are essential, provides a good 
example of function before form.

What are the differences made by a computer replacing a recipe book? I 
would think that the convenience, allowing a threshold to be crossed, of 
drawing upon recipes from around the world would have a considerable if 
subtle and slow effect. What others might there be?


Willard McCarty (www.mccarty.org.uk/), Professor, Department of Digital
Humanities, King's College London, and Research Group in Digital
Humanities, University of Western Sydney

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