The five dumbest products in America. (Sep, 1977)

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The five dumbest products in America.

There they sit.

Five products with no intelligence whatever.

And you can’t blame the people who made them. Because until now, nobody had the technology to make these products actually think.

So we’ve had cars that can only respond to their drivers’ commands, while they charge inefficiently on.

Homes that know only if it’s too hot or too cold, while all hell breaks loose in the front yard.

TV sets that can only reproduce what the station tells them to reproduce.

Telephones that can only send your voice from point A to point B.

And toasters that can’t tell the difference between an English muffin and a split bagel.

The fact is, these products haven’t really changed in more than 20 years.

But what if there were a miniature computer that could make them think? A little brain that could make them sense a situation, make a decision, and do something about it?

Hidden in the air cleaner of your car, this computer could adjust your car’s engine mixture to compensate for changes in temperature, humidity, air pressure and fuel volatility. To give you optimum gas mileage and minimum pollution anywhere, anytime. Recessed in a wall of your home, it could do the obvious things like control temperature, humidity, and air purity. But it could also water the lawn, warn of fire, scare intruders, turn off the lights, and figure the family budget.

Inside your TV set, it could turn on your favorite programs automatically, serenade you with music » when the commercials come on, read bedtime stories to the kids, and do your income tax.

Concealed in your telephone, it could turn your kitchen into a voting booth, call the fire department automatically, time your calls, inventory your food, start the coffee, mix your drinks.

And in your toaster, it could create the impossible: a perfect piece of toast.

What if?

Well, it’s not a “what if? it’s here now.

In a miniature computer no bigger than a pack of cigarettes.

It’s called a microprocessor, and we’re the first company to sell one for as little as $5.00.

It’s already been ordered by hundreds of manufacturers.

Including people who make appliances, automotive equipment, and TV sets.

So it looks like some of the , products on this page won’t be dumb for long.

And if you’ll write 2900 Semiconductor Drive, Santa Clara, CA 95051, for our free booklet—maybe we can make your product disappear from this ad.

National Semiconductor

20 comments
  1. Myles says: June 2, 20109:41 am

    This article seems to be about 15 to 20 years ahead of its time, although many of the ideas are now standard. Car interiors are just now starting to use computer technology, although it has been in the engines for a long time.

  2. Jari says: June 2, 201010:26 am

    Regarding cars, they started to get OBC’s at mid 80′s with fuel injection systems. OBC’s started controlling some interior systems in early 90′s. I still want the perfect toast, though. :)

  3. CL says: June 2, 201011:08 am

    Ha! I’ve never seen a microprocessor compared to a pack of smokes. Usually, its size is compared to a postage stamp or a fingernail.

  4. Kosher Ham says: June 2, 201011:32 am

    In those days, a microprocessor needed additional components to make them work, so “a pack of cigarettes,” was fairly accurate. Now they’re all in one chip that could fit inside a single cigarette! These days “a deck of playing cards” is much healthier and also about the right portion size of meat required at a meal too.

  5. Andrew L. Ayers says: June 2, 20103:55 pm

    @These days “a deck of playing cards” is much healthier and also about the right portion size of meat required at a meal too.

    Maybe in your part of the world. Give me a nicely marbled, medium-rare, grilled 16 oz rib-eye any day…drool.

  6. Firebrand38 says: June 2, 20104:05 pm

    Andrew L. Ayers: No need to add that last part. I just assume that you’re usually drooling.

  7. Andrew L. Ayers says: June 2, 20104:43 pm

    Not sure what you have against me, FB. I love you, though – smooch!

  8. Firebrand38 says: June 2, 20104:59 pm

    Rib-eye definitely isn’t a healthy menu item http://www.thedailyplat…

    So 16 ounces of rib-eye comes to 26 grams of fat, about 8 of them saturated, 318 mg cholesterol and 922 calories (366 of them from fat). So it’s in every part of the world.

    I’m sure that I have nothing against you, just some of your comments.

    No thanks on the other thing…you’re too young for me.

  9. Noah says: June 2, 20105:39 pm

    Why would the house to the budget and the TV do your taxes? Why can’t the TV do your budget and the house to your taxes?

  10. Toronto says: June 2, 20106:41 pm

    Playing cards? You mean that analog version of Microsoft Solitaire?

    And does everyone know the story of The King’s Toaster? Sometimes, complications are just too complicated.

  11. StanFlouride says: June 2, 20108:43 pm

    I guess every site eventually acquires a resident judgmental troll.
    That’s usually about the time they cease to be fun and start to shrivel up and go away.

    Too bad, I’ve really enjoyed MM.

  12. Firebrand38 says: June 2, 20108:44 pm

    Noah: I dunno, maybe because of property taxes and mortgage interest deductions it would be a conflict of interest for the house to do the taxes.

  13. Andrew L. Ayers says: June 3, 20102:46 am

    FB, you only live once. Might as well have a good time doing it, right?

  14. JMyint says: June 3, 20107:18 am

    There is the scan toaster now.

    gizmodo.com/5048572/sca…

  15. Tim says: June 3, 20102:08 pm

    Just fry the bread in butter. It’ll go nicely with a big, rare, juicy ribeye. :)

  16. Mike says: June 4, 20103:54 am

    There was a toaster on the show Red Dwarf that could talk and make all sorts of toast related computations.
    (even found a video on it) http://www.youtube.com/…

    I have to laugh though, I have vague memories of a toaster my sister had when she was a lifeguard at a state park. I believe it went over a burner on a gas stove. I am sure it could be used on a fire pit or BBQ grill, but up to four pieces of toast were held at about a 45 degree angle over the center of the contraption. It browned one side of the bread at a time. Now my parents have a toaster with a countdown display on it and all sorts of controls.

  17. Dale says: June 7, 201011:10 pm

    Myles and Jari, you’re both wrong; the first successful mass-produced and fully-commercialized computer-controlled electronic fuel injection system on passenger cars came along in — wait for it — 1969. My 1973 Volvo 164E is so equipped, right from the factory. The computer is an analogue item, not digital, but it is nevertheless an electronic brain looking at various parameters (manifold pressure and temperature, ambient pressure and temperature, throttle position, engine temperature and speed, etc.) and driving the fuel injectors based on what it sees. As for car interiors only just beginning to get computers, wrong there, too. Chrysler put out a lot of cars with “Electronic Lean Burn”, which was an early computerized engine management system released in 1976. The 1980 Lincoln Town Car was a hideously unreliable piece of junk, but it had a fully digital instrument cluster which incorporated basic go/no-go diagnostics of the brake lights, charging system, and others — all handled by an interior computer. Then there were the Chrysler cars of the early-mid ’80s with digital dashboards and talking systems monitors (“Engine oil pressure is low. Stop engine immediately.”) Here again: computer. The Buick Riviera had a CRT instead of a traditional instrument cluster, driven by a (you guessed it) computer. Interior computers in cars are definitely not new!

  18. Myles says: June 8, 20109:44 am

    Hi Dale,

    Interesting points. No disagreement here. When I talked about computers in the interior I was referring to more of what we currently think of a computer to be. Interactive and useful. Things like bluetooth, mp3, touchscreens and voice recognition :)

  19. Jari says: June 8, 201012:11 pm

    Hi Dale, Nice points. I completely forgot about 80′s Chrysler’s dashboard. I did leave out analog systems because I call them control circuits, not computers. That’s due to my education of industrial controllers on early 80′s. 4-20 mA, anyone? :) Also the ad was about digital comps. Again carburetor and vacuum controlled timing advance with RPM weights could be called mechanical computers, so cars have had computers since 20′s I think. Actually D-Jetronic was first used in VW 1600TL in 1967. Not to mention not-so-successful AMC and Chrysler trials in late 50′s. Here’s everything one wants to know about the D-Jetronic, unfortunately I don’t understand German. http://members.rennlist… clever system, anyway.

  20. GaryM says: June 9, 201010:20 am

    Voting from the kitchen is a scary thought, considering how many companies have been inept at producing secure voting machines even for central locations.

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