Ralph Melton (ralphmelton) wrote,
Ralph Melton


I tend to think of technological progress first and foremost in terms of the big obvious things: cell phones and iPods and computer graphics and so forth. But I've been realizing recently that there's a lot of innovation in areas that I normally wouldn't think to look.

Three examples:

Outdoor holiday decorations

When I was a kid, outdor Christmas lights almost always involved big chunky colored lights the size of an apricot. But there's been a lot of innovation in that domain. In the last decade or so (perhaps longer), icicle lights have become common, and they really do look quite pretty. Then, within the last few years, large inflated illuminated figures (Santas and so forth) have suddenly made the jump from being exotic to being routine. There have been major shifts in common holiday-display technology since my childhood.

Slow cookers

I would have thought that slow cookers were a fairly mature technology. My mother had one when I was young, and we've used ours happily for several years. But I was shopping for slow cookers recently (as a Christmas present for someone who turned out to already own a slow cooker), and I discovered that currently-available slow cookers have a lot more electronic features than ours--and they cost about half of what we paid several years ago. Clearly, there's been a lot of slow-cooker development going on while I wasn't looking.


I definitely would have thought that dustpans were a mature technology. Humans have had many centuries to consider the problem of sweeping, and I'd think that we would pretty much have mastered the problem. But within the past year, our dustpan broke, and I bought a new cheap dustpan at Giant Eagle.

This dustpan is by far the best dustpan I have ever used. (And I am not normally one to rhapsodize about dustpans.) It has a rubber lip that makes a really good seal with the floor, so there's far less of a problem of a final line of dust that can't be swept into the dustpan. It's a dramatic improvement.

But why now? Why was it only in the past few years that we made this significant advancement in dustpan technology (or, at least, had it percolate down to the level that it's the cheap dustpan at the supermarket)? And what wondrous dustpan innovations does the future hold?
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