Home Tech Essay

The Toilet Yes…those tales you’ve heard are true.

The toilet was first patented in England in 1775,

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invented by one Thomas Crapper, but the

extraordinary automatic device called the flush

toilet has been around for a long time. Leonardo

Da Vinci in the 1400’s designed one that worked,

at least on paper, and Queen Elizabeth I reputably

had one in her palace in Richmond in 1556,

complete with flushing and overflow pipes, a bowl

valve and a drain trap. In all versions, ancient and

modern, the working principle is the same.

Tripping a single lever (the handle) sets in motion a

series of actions. The trip handle lifts the seal,

usually a rubber flapper, allowing water to flow

into the bowl. When the tank is nearly empty, the

flap falls back in place over the water outlet. A

floating ball falls with the water level, opening the

water supply inlet valve just as the outlet is being

closed. Water flows through the bowl refill tube

into the overflow pipe to replenish the trap sealing

water. As the water level in the tank nears the top

of the overflow pipe, the float closes the inlet

valve, completing the cycle. From the oldest of

gadgets in the bathroom, let’s turn to one of the

newest, the toothpaste pump. Sick and tired of

toothpaste squeezed all over your sink and

faucets? Does your spouse never ever roll down

the tube and continually squeezes it in the middle?

Then the toothpaste pump is for you! When you

press the button it pushes an internal, grooved rod

down the tube. Near the bottom of the rod is a

piston, supported by little metal flanges called

“dogs”, which seat themselves in the grooves on

the rod. As the rod moves down, the dogs slide

out of the groove they’re in and click into the one

above it. When you release the button, the spring

brings the rod back up carrying the piston with it,

now seated one notch higher. This pushes

one-notch’s-worth of toothpaste out of the nozzle.

A measured amount of toothpaste every time and

no more goo on the sink. Refrigerators Over 90

percent of all North American homes with

electricity have refrigerators. It seems to be the

one appliance that North Americans can just not

do without. The machine’s popularity as a food

preserver is a relatively recent phenomenon,

considering that the principles were known as

early as 1748. A liquid absorbs heat from its

surroundings when it evaporates into a gas; a gas


alone are sold every day in North America. Ink

feeds by gravity through five veins in a nose cone,

usually made of brass, to a tungsten carbide ball.

During the writing process, the ball rotates, picking

up a continuous ink supply through the nose cone

and transferring it to the writing paper. The ball is

a perfect sphere, which must fit precisely into the

extremely smooth nose cone socket so that it will

rotate freely yet be held tightly in place so that

there is an even ink flow. Although it sounds

deceptively simple, perhaps the most amazing

thing about ball-point pens is the ink. Why doesn’t

it just run out the end? Why doesn’t it dry up in the

plastic cartridge? Bic describes the ink as

“exclusive, fast-drying, yet free flowing”. The

formula is, of course, secret. In the 19th century,

writer and thinker Ralph Waldo Emerson

expressed a fear that perhaps we all feel to some

extent, that “things are in the saddle and ride

Mankind”. But with the help of good household

reference books, friendly reference librarians, and

helpful manufacturers only too willing to help

consumers understand their products, we can at

least get a rein on the technology in our homes.


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