The Most Useful Appliances of the Last Century

Our appliances are essential to our everyday lives, which is one of the reasons why we protect them with warranties. Without them, we’d spend hours of time on tasks like washing a few clothes and amenities we take for granted, such as fresh coffee every morning, wouldn’t be possible. Have you ever wondered how your favorite appliances were invented or what people did before they became widely available? Here are some of the most useful appliances from the last 100 years and a bit more about them.

coffee being poured in cup

Automatic Coffee Pot

Before the Keurig, there was the automatic coffee pot. Prior to it being invented in the 1930s by a Chicago woman named Inez H. Pierce, people had to get their daily brew from percolators that siphoned water into a filter compartment and often burned the grounds. The automatic coffee pot has been through many different changes since the first invention, including automatic-drip brewers and the now ubiquitous pod-type makers, and most American households would be lost without one.


Where would most of us be without the ability to make TV dinners in minutes or warm up leftovers? Fortunately, thanks to an accidental invention in the 1940s, we’ll never have to find out. The microwave was invented by Percy L Spencer who realized the vacuum tube he was working on could actually also cook eggs and pop kernels of corn. He decided to use this microwave power in a metal box, the first of which was 5.5 feet tall and weighed in excess of 750 pounds. Think about that the next time you slip your frozen dinner into your tidy, compact appliance!

Vacuum and white tennis shoes

Vacuum Cleaner

People have been cleaning rugs and carpets with various devices since the 16th century, but it wasn’t until 1907 that the first portable, motorized option hit the scene. Invented by James Spangler, an Ohio janitor with asthma, the device used an electric fan to create suction. It also featured rotating brushes that collected dirt, and a makeshift pillowcase as a filter and a broomstick for a handle!

Home Refrigerator

Unlike many precursors to modern appliances that were excessively large when they were first invented, the home refrigerator was comparatively small. It was invented in 1913 by Fred W. Wolf and was a small unit that was designed to sit on top of an icebox. However, it needed external plumbing connections to work, so it wasn’t extremely convenient. It was until three years later than Alfred Mellowes improved on the invention by adding in a compressor and it took another 50+ years for more efficient models to be mass-produced.

Washing Machine

Washing clothes has been a common chore since…clothes have been invented! And people have always been looking for ways to make the task easier and more effective. This led to early versions of the washing machine being invented as early as the 1700s. But it wasn’t until the 1930s that Alva J. Fisher invented the first automatic version and was improved upon by John W. Chamberlain, who added features that could wash, rinse, and extract water all in one contraption. It took another decade until the first top-loading automatic washing machine was available to the public.

Learning about the history of your appliances can make you more grateful for having them in your life and motivate you to keep them in good working order. Has one of your life-enhancing appliances broken down? The team at ASAP can help! Give us a call today for all your appliance repair needs.