1958 Westinghouse Appliances - The shape of yesterday's tomorrow, this morning!

I think we live in sort of pessimistic times. When's the last time you heard anybody get excited about The Future? Or, what was the last ad you saw using "of tomorrow" in anything other than sarcastic tones? I mean, I like the future. That's where I keep all my best electronics. But then I'm a futurist nerd. My opinion doesn't count. In '58, lots of people were optimistic and super cranked about The Future. This is one reason I like 1958 so much.
The Images and Scanning Them dept had some trouble with today's two-page spread. The Saturday Evening Post didn't want to spread 'em very easily, and in keeping with our "do no harm" and "catch and release" policy on magazine husbandry, we chose not to "force the issue". (Heh heh. Good one, Phil man!)

These appliances are so sharp-edged you could shave with the refrigerator. Gone were the bulbous appliances with tail fins and chrome. Westinghouse was all about simple shapes and minimalism in '58. I'm inclined to agree with their design, but that doesn't mean I understand it. Why do we perpetually associate minimalism with The Future? Look around Ikea. Circles and squares, baby. The Future!

An early occurrence of a common Future shape: the squircle. This is an example of "prior art" that prevented Apple from patenting The Use Of The Squircle In a Portable Music Device. The Westinghouse washer-dryer combo unit was technically a PMD, since it A) wasn't bolted to the floor and B) made noises that were rhythmic, and therefore could be construed as music.

Decades later, the iPod's squircle-based design was regarded as "very clean", as was the compression algorithm used in the AAC file format preferred by Apple music listeners. However, this was not enough to allow Apple to patent the device as a washing machine.

Well, when we think of The Past, it's all swirlicues and filigree, right? Ornamentation for the sake of it. Look at the Vatican. What could be more "old world" than this mess? Who's going to dust all that stuff? Oh, that's right. You won't have to, because the rapture will be here any minute now to tear the world apart, starting in 1 A.D. I hope you brought something to read. (Any second now!)

As far as spiritual architecture goes, I kind of think the Buddhists have the right idea. Simplicity turns the mind inward and brings about the extinction of the self, or whatever. Whoever designed this joint (pictured) was definitely a material girl. No wonder it's all run by unmarried men who wear dresses and have a flair for the theatrical.

So, maybe it's no surprise that we have come to think of The Future as being geometric and clean. It works for me, at least. If I bought a house that had surviving appliances like these Westinghouses in place, I'd pray that they still work so I could keep them around, because they're so cool. It'd just be Allen Wrenchio, the God of Ikea that I prayed to for such modernist intervention.

Click for big.


Anonymous said...

When I bought my house, I was very excited to see a vintage washer/dryer combo unit similar to this: http://pzrservices.typepad.com/.a/6a00d83451ccbc69e201156f66bdd2970c-pi
All porthole squircley in avocado green, like a huge "iLaundry" in my utility room! But alas, it was not salvageable and had to be carted away. A very sad day for squircledom - And my wallet.

Anonymous 2

Anonymous said...

OOps - bad link Try this:


Anonymous said...

I give up - sorry!

Anonymous 2

PhilAreGo@gmail.com said...

The second link works just fine. Nice squircle! Thanks for reading, mysterious commenter!


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