The Return of the Internet Toaster


Internet Toaster, Simon Hackett, Internet History

There really was an Internet toaster. Dan Lynch, President of the Interop Internet networking show, told John Romkey at the 1989 show that he would give him star billing the following year if he connected a toaster to the Internet.

John Romkey connected a Sunbeam Deluxe Automatic Radiant Control Toaster to the Internet, becoming the hit of the 1990 Interop. A picture of Hackett demonstrating the toaster is shown.

The toaster was connected to the Internet with TCP/IP networking, and controlled with a Simple Networking Management Protocol Management Information Base (SNMP MIB). It had one control, to turn the power on, and the darkness of the toast was controlled by how long the power was kept on.

The above is from Living Internet.

This NoJitter feature discusses how IPv6 could result with the Internet Toaster frenzy – IP addresses for cows – and why the US is lagging on IPv6.

The Return of the Internet Toaster

In the Interop conference’s early days, John Romkey was provoked into demonstrating a connected toaster. The Sunbeam Deluxe Radiant Controlled toaster was modified for SNMP control over a TCP/IP network. Two pervasive technologies combined into one device. Despite the fanfare, neither Sunbeam nor its competitors ever brought an IP enabled toaster to market. Perhaps they felt IP was just a temporary fad, or maybe they were concerned about the lack of connectivity in most kitchens.

Or maybe it was because it offered no value. The SNMP control only enabled the toaster to be turned on. Insertion of the bread, and pushing-down the plunger required human intervention.

The toaster was really only meant to demonstrate the potential ubiquity of IP and the potential of SNMP. I remember the toaster well. It was impressive and fun, but also the source of ridicule. The connected toaster was for technology’s sake, it didn’t improve the quality of the toast or reduce the human effort. Unfairly it became the butt of every technology-gone-awry joke–not to mention the bust (2000) and the limitations of SNMP v1.

Well, it is back. Not because anyone wants it, but because we can, we have the bandwidth, the addresses (with IPv6), and the wherewithal to connect everything. We can rebuild the toaster, and make it faster, better, stronger than before (and for a lot less than $6 million).Read the rest at NoJitter.

Dave Michels