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A computer's place is in the kitchen

Mike Elgan | Sept. 1, 2015
Forget the living room. The kitchen is the true family hub now. Here's what Amazon is cooking up.

Amazon's "Kabinet" system sounds like an Echo with a screen and faster processing, as well as the ability to run apps and function as a home-automation hub.

If that's true, then Amazon may beat the rest of the industry to the computing platform of the future.

Where it all started

Little-known fact: The world's first-ever computer for consumers was a kitchen computer.

In 1969, one of the products for sale in the Neiman Marcus catalog was a $10,000 Honeywell machine called the Honeywell Kitchen Computer. It was really a 16-bit minicomputer called the Honeywell 316, but with kitchen applications.

Would-be users of the Honeywell Kitchen Computer had to complete a two-week training course. The input was a toggle switch, and the output was blinking lights. But it did have an integrated cutting board.

They probably didn't sell any.

Why the kitchen is a home's true hub

The biggest companies in Silicon Valley have been battling for years over the "future of the living room." It's assumed that the living room is a great place to set up a hub for home automation technology because you probably already have an Internet-connected TV box there, and possibly a powerful game console.

I think that's a bad assumption. The home automation hub should be in the same place where the family usually congregates in real life. In most homes, I think that's the kitchen.

In our house it's the first place we go in the morning and the last place we visit before going to bed. It's where people hang out, and where we spend a lot of time making food and cleaning up. It's our natural habitat.

Before mobile phones, many American homes had a wall-mounted telephone, next to which you'd often find a bulletin board for calendars, messages and reminders.

Families have long used their refrigerators as message boards, photo galleries, places to display birthday cards, children's finger-paintings, coupons, checks to be deposited, invitations, shopping lists and to-do lists.

Because the refrigerator is in the kitchen, and the kitchen is the place where a lot happens and where we frequently spend time, it's only natural that the kitchen is the most intuitive place to keep track of things we don't want to forget.

Increasingly, kitchens are designed with seating of some kind -- often bar stools around an island or on the side of a counter -- so people can sit there and eat, drink or just chat. Some newer homes include a combination kitchen and family room.

People are cooking more, and many people eat most or all their meals at a table in the kitchen itself, rather than in a separate dining room.


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