The Evolution Of The Washing Machine, Tech’s Most Humble Appliance

The Evolution Of The Washing Machine, Tech’s Most Humble Appliance
Image: Samsung

Washing machines are not glamorous, that’s just a fact.

They don’t have the shiny allure of the latest smartphone, or the stunning aesthetics of a new 4K TV – but can you imagine your life without one?

What once would have taken a whole day of hand washing and using a mangle (ask your grandparents) has been reduced to around an hour-long automatic process – touching a button is the most effort you need to exert.

Brought to you by Samsung QuickDrive, the revolutionary washing machine that cuts washing time up to half.

For that alone, washing machines are truly the unsung hero of the home, packed full of reliable and underrated innovations that have quietly been getting better and better over time.

The ‘it just works’ sentiment that’s often thrown around at new gadget launches could have been invented to describe the good old washing machine, as it seamlessly works away in the background to make your life easier – like all the best tech does.

Add up all the hours it’s saved you over the years, and it’s hard to think of a more valuable home appliance.

Here is how the washing machine has evolved over time, from the very first electric appliances to the smart machines we use today.

Thor Strength

The aptly named Thor is thought to have been the first electric-powered washing machine introduced to the mass-market, way back in 1907 by the Hurley Machine Company in Chicago.

It wasn’t exactly watertight and you still had to manually fill the machine with water, monitor timings and wring dry the clothes by hand.

Interestingly, the true inventor of the washing machine remains unknown due to the unreliable nature of the US patents system at the time, although we know that Alva J. Fisher is listed as the inventor on the patent of the Thor.

It was three decades later that the first domestic washing machines were launched by Bendix Home Appliances, when electricity became more accessible.

They had to literally be anchored to the floor to stop them moving around the room during a cycle, but people were starting to discover the transformative potential of these new appliances.

Going Automatic

It wasn’t until the 1950s that washing machines really started to catch on in people’s homes across the world, with top loaders gaining popularity in Australia and the US, and front loaders leading the pack in Europe.

They weren’t cheap, but early manufacturers like General Electric, which launched one of the first top loaders, struggled to keep up with demand once the economy began to bounce back after World War II.

By this point, machines were becoming fully automatic. They could be connected to the water supply, with a thermostat controlling the temperature and a timer controlling the operating time.

Come the ’70s, all the big manufacturers had caught onto the popularity of the washing machine, with Samsung launching its first – the familiar-sounding Galaxy washing machine – in 1974.

Smart Laundry

Washing machines started to embrace digital in the ’90s, with built-in computers that could automatically choose cycles to match the load. That’s also when we got the all important delicate cycles for clothes like wool.

It seemed like machines had everything we could ever need, so where do you go from there?

Fast-forward to 2018 and we have revolutionary machines like the Samsung QuickDrive launching.

The QuickDrive comes with a main drum and back plate that rotate independently of each other, creating an action that washes clothes up to 50 per cent quicker and more powerfully.

You can also control it from anywhere with the Smart Things app (so your washing is ready just in time for you getting home) and use the steam cycles, which remove allergens and up to 99.9 per cent of bacteria.

Plus, you can add clothes at anytime during the cycle using the clever AddWash door.

It’s safe to say, we’ve come a long way since the days of the Thor and mangle!