How do you make toast?

I'm doing two days consultancy in Cornwall. Yesterday for the folks at Research Instruments in Falmouth and today for the folks at Absolute Software in Redruth. Both are really great places to work and it's a joy visiting them.

I'm staying at the Penventon hotel. My usual breakfast routine is tea, porridge, and toast. They have a big silver toaster. You put your slices of bread into the front, it pulls them in slowly, applies a lot of heat, and then drops them down a shute.

Yesterday they came out mostly black.

I tried scraping them with a knife. I won't bother next time. They never taste good when you do that. All I did was create black dust for someone to waste time cleaning up. They didn't taste good. I didn't eat them.

I was reminded of the joke:

How do you make toast?

You burn bread and scrape the burn off.

Today I put my toast in the same as before. The toaster slowly pulled them in, applied heat, and dropped them down the chute. The slices were under toasted this time. So I put the slices in again. The toaster pulled them in again, applied heat again, and dropped them down the chute again. Just right. No knives. No scraping. No black dust. No cleaning up. I added marmalade. I ate them. Lovely.


  1. I'm sure there's a point or metaphor you had in mind here. Whether you did or not it's open enough for a number of readings.

    My take away from this is that the more flexibility you put into a user interface, the more disinterested, uncaring, end-users will use it badly and give you a bad name.

    If only Apple made toasters.

  2. Hi Phil,
    I deliberately left it open. But you're right - there was a metaphor I had in mind: the difference between trying to do a job all in one go vs doing it in small repeated steps.

  3. Ahh.
    Of course that metaphor breaks down pretty quickly when you point out that, given the right settings, it is possible to make perfect toast in one iteration in the same time it took you to perform the two iterations.


  4. All metaphors break down somewhere of course. I would argue it's only possible to be (relatively) sure of perfect toast if you've used the toaster before...