The household electrical appliances which we use nowadays are the result of a long evolutive sequence. This sequence proceeds not only from technical progress, but also from constraints which age and society have imposed on the most usual tools of daily life. The most commonplace and the most widespread appliance, the washing machine, bears witness to this evolution. The spread of new techniques depends on systems in which they progress, particularly industrial systems which favor the status quo, resist change with tenacity, their influence being translated by technological distortions or badly adopted modernizations. The example of two big German firms making washing machines makes it possible to show how mental attitudes, and a series of tools and practices, can be sources of prejudice in the industrial domain, and how, beyond all rational consideration, they can direct technological choices, which are geared towards electric performance for Siemens, and mechanical variety for Miele.
By Marie-Noële Denis