Toaster mystery SOLVED




It’s the news you’ve all been waiting for! OK, some of you have been waiting for. Not like you wait for an exciting parcel to arrive, or for you tea to be ready; more how you might wait for a dental appointment, just to get it out of the way, or you wait for someone to hurry up in the loo because SERIOUSLY WHAT HAVE THEY BEEN DOING IN THERE FOR 40 MINUTES?

Yep, that’s how to feel about feedback about the toaster latching mechanism as considered in AMT292. Sean from Waiheke Island, New Zealand appears to be qualified to explain it:

In a previous life I spent several years traipsing around toaster factories in China, inspecting their wares and production methods, helping them improve their quality and designs, and buying them, quite literally, by the truckload for the eager British public.
In this capacity, I can advise you with some confidence, that the reason a toaster won’t latch when it’s not plugged in is because the mechanism is held in the down position by an electro-magnet. And as the term suggests, electromagnets need the “electro” component in order to work.

Basically, there’s a small electronic timer (a chip on a circuit board) which powers the electromagnet for the period set by the “browning control”. While the electromagnet is powered on, it holds on to a small metal plate attached to the lever and the bread carriage. When the time’s up, the power to the electromagnet is cut, the magnetism stops, and the whole mechanism is released, with springs bringing the bread carriage back to the up position.

In the “olden” days, all of this was done much more mechanically using latches and bimetallic strips, which was a great system, but with varied results. But because it was purely mechanical, you could latch the bread carriage down without the power being switched on. The fancy new electromagnetic timers are cheaper and more reliable, and the reason why the toaster needs power before the mechanism can be latched in the down position.

So there you go… mystery solved.

Thanks, Detective Sean! And for all of you still wondering whyyyyy this is necessary, here’s a cautionary tale to illustrate the vital role the toaster-latch plays in our lives. Josh from New York writes:

When I was in high school, my parents had an older toaster with a latching mechanism that allowed you to push in the bread even when the toaster was not plugged in.

One fateful Fourth of July, I was in the mood for some toast. I put some bread in the toaster, pushed the bread down, and waited five minutes before realizing toast was not being made because the toaster was not plugged in. (Yes, like your original questioner, I was apparently too stupid to make toast.) Without pushing the bread back up, I reached to plug in the toaster. As soon as the plug was in the socket, the toaster short circuited and lit on fire.

I was burned badly enough that I had to go to the emergency room, where I waited two hours so a doctor could tell me he did not believe my story and insisted that I had probably been playing with fireworks for American Independence Day. And on top of that, I NEVER GOT MY TOAST.

In short, if you’re as bad at making toast as I am – and the original question asker apparently is – you should probably just eat your bread cold.

There we go. Those electromagnets are just looking after us, knowing that we’re too stupid to be trusted. I’m going to delegate all my life admin to electromagnets.

PS Star Wars fans, I have found THE toaster for you. HERE. No need to thank me.
PPS If your tastes fall more on the Olly Mann end of the spectrum, I also have the toaster for you.


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