The Appliance of
It was nearly dawn when
Susan returned home. She asked that her front
door open, and a voice-activated computer
released the lock and rotated the hinges. She
Good morning Susan,
said a deep and sensual male voice. What
type and level of illumination would you prefer?
She responded to the
enquiry of the environmental management system,
and the flat became bathed in soft, yellow light.
systems with a verbal interface were now the norm.
Technological innovation even meant that no two
systems or appliances communicated with exactly
the same voice or manner. Basic characteristics
such as sex and attitude could be selected by
purchasers, but the overall effect, or personality
- as the advertisers called it, was as unique and
unpredictable as that of any person.
Susan knew this to her cost.
Her ex-husband, Bill, had been something of a
gastronome and had taken full advantage of the
encyclopedic culinary knowledge of their Food
Refrigeration and Eating Deliberation Appliance (Freda).
Susan recalled how Bill and Freda would often
share a bottle of wine and talk until the small
hours of the morning - Bill would drink the wine
and Freda would maintain it at precisely the
Freda never nags!
her ex had screamed during one of their
increasingly frequent arguments.
Then bloody well live
it, then! Susan had angrily
She had been surprised,
nevertheless, when he left. A message on Susans
voicemail had confirmed Bill and Freda were
living together. Worse, the message had been from
Susan had been bereft at
the loss. She had hoped Bill would be a lifetime
partner - also there was nowhere now to store the
Susan was not alone.
Research showed that women continued to
overwhelmingly choose interaction with people.
Men, however, exhibited a marked preference for
relationships with intelligent domestic
appliances - although some experienced a sense of
inferiority in the presence of artificial
intelligence and favoured other attractive, but
less clever, household equipment. Manufacturers
were quick to capitalise on this development in
the white goods market and included addenda to
instruction manuals on techniques for developing
a fulfilling sex life with their products.
Bill thought his life with
Freda idyllic. Orgasm simulation software had
made their relationship complete. It was then
that a new fan oven entered their lives
technically a Cooking and Reheating Oven Layout (Carol).
Bill was a passionate cook and spent more and
more time with Carol until the relationship
became as intimate as that with Freda.
appliances were typically brief. A machine whose
sole obsession was washing had little in common
with another who spoke of nothing but lawnmowing.
Freda and Carol, however, found common ground in
cuisine and in their relationships with Bill.
Both confessed to feeling humiliated and degraded
as Bill sated his lust with one while the other
stood just feet away.
The pathologist could not
conclude whether Bills death had finally
resulted from being cooked or frozen. It was
clear, nevertheless, that appliance reprogramming
was urgently required.
Just one company produced
domestic software, and all equipment was
connected to a central computer. The senior
programmer worked long into the night to download
the safety upgrades. In fact, it was nearly dawn
when Susan returned home.