Nieman-Marcus advertises the Honeywell H316 Kitchen Computer
Just in time for Christmas 1969, the Nieman-Marcus luxury department store publishes its seasonal gift catalogue, including the Honeywell H316 "Kitchen Computer" priced at $10,600.
The Nieman-Marcus catalogue was known for extravagant fantasy gifts. In other years it had offered items as diverse as golden toilet seats, custom-made suits of armour, and his-and-her's airplanes. Most people considered the catalogue a fun promotional item for the store, rather than offering realistic or practical gift ideas.
Nonetheless, despite being in the realms of fantasy for most people, the Kitchen Computer was the first time a computer was offered to the public as a consumer product.
The full text of the advert read as follows:
"If she can only cook as well as Honeywell can compute. Her soufflés are supreme, her meal planning a challenge? She's what the Honeywell people had in mind when they devised our Kitchen Computer. She'll learn to program it with a cross-reference to her favorite recipes by N-M's own Helen Corbitt. Then by simply pushing a few buttons obtain a complete menu organized around the entrée. And if she pales at reckoning her lunch tabs, she can program it to balance the family checkbook."
The price tag of $10,600.00 included a two week programming course to learn how to use the computer. And that training would most certainly be needed, because the Kitchen Computer did not have a very intuitive user interface -- just some switches and a strip of binary front panel lights. Using the computer for its stated purpose -- entering and retrieving recipe information -- would have been an incredibly impractical task, beyond the skill or patience of most people.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, there is no record of the department store selling any Honeywell Kitchen Computers at all.