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Can You Guess What These Old Household Objects Were Once Used For?

These antiquated devices will have you thanking your lucky stars for electricity.

Technological advances happen so quickly that it's almost impossible to keep up. If you told someone in the 1990s even that folks today would be texting from their watches and watching TV on their phones, they might look at you as though you'd grown another head. And if you were to compare some of today's modern devices with their early iterations, you probably wouldn't even be able to tell what's what. Want to find out how much you know about outdated appliances? Read on to test your knowledge and see if you can figure out what these old household objects were originally used for.

What's this crank-operated machine?

old fashioned calculator
Tminaz / Alamy Stock Photo

Hint: You probably used to use one of these every day in school.

Answer: A calculator!

calculator on table

Long before battery-powered calculators were staples in classrooms, these analog devices were the easiest way to add things up.

What's this adorably rustic device?

green ice shaver with swan design outdoors
KokWhy Hoi / Alamy Stock Photo

Hint: It wouldn't be a summer party without one!

Answer: An ice shaver!

bowls of rainbow snow cones or shaved ice on striped tablecloth
Shutterstock/Brent Hofacker

Prior to the advent of machines that can create a snow cone at the touch of a button, folks used to have to shave their ice the old fashioned way: with nothing more than a crank and a whole lot of elbow grease.

What's this unique-looking table?

old kerosene stove
Jim Snyders / Alamy Stock Photo

Hint: You may have used one on your last camping trip.

Answer: A kerosene stove!

green kerosene lamp or camping stove in woods
Shutterstock/Max Sudakov

Today, your average camping stove can easily fit in a backpack. Just a few decades back, however, they were much larger apparatuses—and hardly portable at that.

What's this ominous-looking box?

interior of old microwave
EyeEm / Alamy Stock Photo

Hint: You probably still have one of these in your kitchen.

Answer: A microwave!

white hand pressing button on microwave

Before microwaves were petite enough to be installed over a stove or plugged in on your countertop, they were large standalone devices that took up more than their fair share of kitchen space.

What's this scary-looking metal apparatus?

antique hair clippers weird old household items
Luca Ponti/Alamy

Hint: It looks a bit like a torture device, but many men use its modern version on a regular basis.

Answer: Hair clippers!

beard trimmer weird old household items

Prior to the invention of the electric razor, guys brave enough to let one of these near their face would use it to pare down their beards.

What's this rolling contraption?

antique washing machine weird old household items
Stephen Power/Alamy

Hint: It's not a steampunk coat rack or a repurposed sewing machine table, but you're warm.

Answer: A washing machine!

clothing in the washing machine weird old household objects

The combination of modern agitators and running water certainly makes our clothes cleaner than they used to be. The previously pictured machine was used to get the excess water and soap out of garments—and that's about it.

What is this metal contraption?

antique toaster weird old household items
Jim Lane/Alamy

Hint: It may look like a thumb piano in a cage, but that's not its bread and butter.

Answer: A toaster!

Red toaster weird old household objects

Early electric toasters—like the one pictured previously, which was built in 1921—had the same basic mechanism as the ones we use today. Slices of bread were held in a cage and pushed down toward a heating element, which crisped it right up. And funnily enough, the toaster was actually created before sliced bread was invented; the latter wasn't a mass-market product until 1928.

What is this wooden device?

trouser press weird old household items
Steve Bentley/Alamy

Hint: Even the most well-versed amateur historian would be hard-pressed to figure out what this combination of wooden boards and screws is.

Answer: A trouser press!

denim folding tips weird old household objects

Before there were dry cleaners and handheld garment steamers, if you wanted to get your pants in wearable shape, you'd put them in a trouser press.

What is this scary-looking cage?

antique hair dryer weird old household items
mauritius images GmbH/Alamy

Hint: Though this looks like something out of a horror movie, women once swore by it.

Answer: A hair dryer!

Blow Dryer weird old household objects

Before we had ionic hair dryers, straightening brushes, and Dysons, the electric bonnet was about as good as it got in the hair salon. The machine wasn't pretty, but it got the job done; it hooked up to a tube that blew air through holes in the metal cage.

What is this copper pot used for?

antique bell brazier weird old household items
alberto maisto/Alamy

Hint: Though it looks like it could chill a bottle of champagne, this contraption was actually used for the opposite purpose.

Answer: A portable heater!

space heater weird old household objects

Known as a brazier, this type of pan was typically used to hold hot coals. The coals would be loaded into the heater and used to heat individual rooms in the house before the advent of electric heating.

What is this scary-looking machine?

antique bread slicer weird old household items
Heinz Jacobi/Alamy

Hint: If this device reminds you a bit of a guillotine, you're not far off.

Answer: A bread slicer!

Slicing bread weird old household objects

Instead of chopping off heads, this simple machine was used to chop bread into uniform slices. The handle on the left raises the blade, while the wooden part allows the rest of the loaf to rest without anyone's hands getting in the way.

What is this icy bucket used for?

antique ice cream maker weird old household items
Yarvin Pennsylvania Journeys/Alamy

Hint: This gadget gives new meaning to the "ice bucket challenge."

Answer: An ice cream maker!

scooping ice cream weird old household objects

Similar to the process used to make butter, ice cream used to be churned in a bucket to create a smooth, frozen consistency. Old ice cream makers also typically combined salt with ice, as the two create a refrigerant mixture capable of freezing dairy.

What is this hand-cranked device?

coffee grinder weird old household objects

Hint: If you guessed it was a pepper mill, you're on the right track.

Answer: A coffee grinder!

Coffee beans and coffee grinder

Today, you can grind coffee beans at the touch of a button with an electric coffee grinder (or just buy them pre-ground). But getting the same result a century ago meant hand-cranking your beans against a set of blades to finely mill them.

What is this contraption full of wheels and chains?

antique food processor weird old household objects

Hint: Suffice it to say that today's version of this device makes any process easier.

Answer: A food processor!

chopped vegetables weird old household objects

Before Cuisinart entered the game, getting your ingredients finely ground was far more involved, as evidenced by the previously pictured complex machine.

What is this pan-and-screw combination?

antique meat press weird old household objects
Antiques & Artifacts/Alamy

Hint: If you consider yourself a grill master, you've probably used one of these before.

Answer: A meat press!

cheeseburger cooking weird old household objects

Ideal for creating perfectly round burgers and getting a good sear on steaks and other cuts of meat, this device was once a staple in kitchens around the country.

What is this pot with a gauge on its lid?

antique pressure cooker weird old household objects
Tony Claxton/Alamy

Hint: It may not look like much, but this machine can get a lot done in a surprisingly short amount of time.

Answer: A pressure cooker!

instant pot pressure cooker weird old household objects

Before Instant Pots were everyone's favorite cooking tool, pressure cookers like the old one pictured prior were a common sight in kitchens. Similar to the electric pressure cookers many chefs are accustomed to today, these pots used steam and a pressurized environment (hence the screws) to cook food fast.

What is this metal gadget on three legs?

antique juicer weird old household objects
Danny Smythe/Alamy

Hint: This one looks like it was lot easier to clean after breakfast than today's version.

Answer: A juicer!

Mid adult woman making cold-pressed juice in the kitchen. Focus on cold-pressed juicer

Before electric juicers were effortlessly turning fruits and vegetables into drinkable liquids, the process was done by hand. You'd simply put the fruit of your choice into the center well, flip the part on the lefthand side over toward the right, and squeeze the two handles together to create juice.

Sarah Crow
Sarah Crow is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, where she focuses on celebrity news and health coverage. Read more
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