An example of ‘elegant interaction’ is GE’s Hot Point Toaster (see Fig. source http://www.toaster.org). The problem, which this mechanism solved, was toasting a slice of bread on both sides. Modern devices have a simpler but less elegant solution: you simply slide down the slice of bread between two heating elements and a spring and bi-metal based mechanism releases it again when the slice has turned into toast. The ‘flopper’ mechanism was an earlier and I think a more elegant solution, at least from an interaction point of view. The ‘Flopper’ toaster had only one heating element, placed at the center of the toaster. In order to toast the slice of bread on both sides, you would need to turn it.
The toaster has a door to hold the bread against the heating element. This door is closed by a spring. A simple lever allows you to open the door. The shape of the door and the location of the hinge make it so that the bread slides down when you open the door. The side of the bread that is toasted ends up on the door. Closing the door automatically puts the side of the bread not yet toasted against the heating element. In effect, opening and releasing the door turns the bread. Opening the door for a longer time releases the bread from the toaster, i.e. it slides over the door onto the plate (or table in case you forget to put a plate). Open quickly to turn the slice of bread open slowly to remove the toast.
The design of this toaster may have been due to practical considerations (no standardized pre-sliced bread at the time) or maybe inspired by budget constraints as the heating element was the most expensive component. At the end of the 1920s, the price for such a toaster was 8$. By comparison, the price for bread was 10cents a loaf.
This interaction is elegant and the mechanism is direct, mechanical and visible and yet there is something surprising in the application of physical mechanical laws. There is room for the user to develop and fine tune the gesture and that gesture can become part of a morning ritual. Technology integrated seamlessly into life.
Standard mechanically pre-sliced bread went on sale only end of 1920s. Around the same time (1929) Patent 1,698,146 for an automatic pop-up toaster for home use was approved.
See workshop handout chapter 2.