Computing Classic: The Kitchen Computer

The 1969 Kitchen Computer by Honeywell was not just a fancy cutting board. It was meant to store recipes, even recommending meals from ingredients on hand. The problem is, you had to know binary to use it.

The machine's designers assumed that housewives would do all the cooking, and yet, also assumed they'd be open to learning binary: is the Honeywell Kitchen Computer the most or least sexist computer ever made? I don't know. I do know its the most beautiful minicomputer I've ever put my eyes on. The plastic chassis hid so much of the 150 pound machine's weight in its black pedestal. Then again, it could have been a lot bigger, had it had an actual user interface that wasn't binary: The $US10,600 price set by Neiman Marcus included two weeks of programming lessons in a language known as BACK.

The machine itself was a 16-bit minicomputer—the class right below mainframes—and its official name was actually the H316 Pedestal. It was part of the Series 16 lineup, based on the DDP-116. (A machine most notable for its use as ARPANET Interface Message Processors, early machinations that ran the predecessor to the modern internet.)

It had 4KB of magnetic memory, expandable to 16KB, which was pre programmed with a few recipes. Its system clock was 2.5MHz. It took 475 watts to operate.

Dag Spicer, curator from the Computer History Museum, says, "None were ever sold."

He adds, in an article at Dr. Dobbs, that in the late 1960s, "with that kind of budget, the solution would likely be a live-in chef or the traditional 3x5 card file, no?"


[Wiki, The Computer History Museum, Dr. Dobbs, Old]

The Computer History Museum is a wonderful place. If you're in northern CA, I recommend you find a way to stop by. We'll be running pieces from their collection as an ongoing series called Computing Classic. Special thanks to Fiona Tang, John Hollar and the amazing Dag Spicer for their help.

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