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The presentation of a number of products designed to fulfil the same function allows examination of a range of solutions to a single problem. We have selected vacuum cleaners but might equally have chosen irons, radios, or lights to name but three.
The development of electric domestic appliances, including vacuum cleaners, was dependent on the availability of electricity in the home.In Britain, the national grid was established in 1926 but even by 1939 only two out of three homes had electricity. Thus the models shown here, dating from 1921 to the recent past, span the history of the product from a labour-saving device for the privileged to an essential product for every home.
From the outset there were two solutions to the vacuum cleaner the cylinder or cylindrical with suction through hoses and the upright model with suction through a mouthpiece that forms the foot of the product, sometimes into a soft cloth bag and sometimes into a rigid container.The different solutions to the form have different strengths and weaknesses. More recently the upright form has also been equipped with hoses arguably gaining the advantages of both models.
The earlier models are made mainly of metal with plastic components. These components are of the plastic known as Bakelite, a plastic with outstanding insulating qualities. Later models are made entirely of plastic.The plastic used for the body of the recent machines is acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, which, appropriately, has outstanding impact strength.