SECRET LIFE OF MACHINES 1 UPDATE 2004
wrote the first series in 1987-8. Iím amazed and very flattered that
it still has a following 16 years on. Looking at the films again, they seem to have aged surprisingly well. The
style doesnít look too dated, probably because they never really
looked like the mainstream TV of the time Ė even the style of my
clothes has remained almost unchanged. Of course the technology of the
machines has changed so they all need an extra scene or two to
bring them up to date.
vacuum cleaner film was made before Dysonís cleaners were introduced.
These use an old industrial idea of sucking the air and dirt through
spiral vanes. This spins the dirt and flings it to the outside of the
chamber. Dysonís version has several stages of vanes and needs no dust
bag. Unfortunately the finest particles still get through so filter pads
are needed over the outlet. These reduce the suction power of the
machines, so Iím not sure they are any real improvement, despite the
hype. There is also more
awareness of the link between asthma and house dust, so all
manufacturers have put more effort into the outlet filters.
machines havenít changed much. All the programmer timers are now
microprocessor based but everything else is roughly the same. Washing
Ďballsí have been introduced as a green alternative to washing
powder. The ceramic grains inside the balls help to dislodge oil and
grease from clothes Ė but they donít work on my overalls or anything
The recent direct drive inverter motors are
amazing - no belt, no brushes.
machines havenít changed at all! Sadly home sewing has become such a
minority interest that most of my local fabric shops have closed and
there hasnít been any investment developing the machines. A legacy of
the original program is that Iíve become quite keen on sewing. I had a
scrap Bernina I found on a household waste tip rebuilt, and Iíve been
using it every since.
are basically unchanged, but the disposal of scrap fridges is completely
different. When I made the film, alternative refrigerant gases were
starting to be introduced that are supposed to do less damage to the
ozone layer of the atmosphere. Since then though, it has been decided
that the gas trapped in the bubbles of the polyurethane foam insulation
is also a problem, so now fridges have to be sent for specialist
recycling, and every household waste tip has a mini fridge mountain.
heating systems are little different, though most houses now have the heating pipes
installed under the floor, instead of
having radiators. Plastic, push-fit plumbing fittings are also gradually
taking over from soldered joints.
sets have gone wide-screen and the Ďpicture tubeí has become
obsolete, replaced by other technologies. Plasma displays are
similar in principle to fluorescent lights, the electricity exciting
pixels of coloured phosphors to emit light in a vacuum.
They are wonderfully bright, but too expensive to take over
completely. Liquid crystal
TVs are sophisticated versions of the liquid crystal displays in watches
(see the quartz watch episode in series 2). A white backlight, from tiny
cold cathode tubes, shines through a large, multi-layer liquid crystal
cell which creates the colours of the individual pixels. Some video
projectors also shine the light through liquid crystal cells, though
others use a Texas Instruments chip which reflects the light off
thousands of tiny mirrors (one for each pixel). Video
TVs have recently started using LEDs for the backlight. They can vary
the brightness of different parts of the screen to increase the contrast
of the image.
Hunkin, Jan 2010