The Multi Blower that Multi Sucked
The Philips HK 4250 Multi Blower was invented in the late 1960s, when consumerism had hit its first ceiling: every household in the First World had bought every variety of appliance they could ever possibly need. With World War II and its hardships still fresh in people’s minds, nobody was willing to replace things before they broke down. Sure, the 1969 blow dryer looked nicer and blew a bit harder and hotter, but the ’61 model was still drying and styling hair like a champ, so why toss it away? And because advertising was still in its infancy, it was almost impossible to sell people stuff they had no use for. The only thing consumers were craving now, was storage space for all their convenient appliances.
Enter Jupiter de Bruijn, an unassuming janitor who’d encountered this very problem decades earlier -and had solved it. He’d been with Philips from the start, in 1891, as a junior janitor. In the course of his career he’d been offered a promotion to senior janitor repeatedly, which he had always politely declined. His godly first name wasn’t a reflection of his own, but of his parents’ ambitions. Jupiter himself didn’t care much for status and was perfectly happy to remain a humble junior janitor until his death.
He had come across the storage space shortage problem in his janitorial work at Philips: he’d been running out of closet space to store the tools of his trade. In 1891 he’d been appointed a janitor’s closet that had seemed ridiculously spacious at the time. He could easily have stored a hundred brooms, mops and buckets in it. And pretty soon that was exactly what he had to do. Philips kept expanding and needed ever more janitors to keep things running smoothly. By 1900, Jupiter had 103 juvenile junior janitors working under him, all storing their brooms, mops and buckets in that same janitor’s closet, which now seemed ridiculously cramped.
And that’s when Jupiter was hit by his first bolt of inspirational lightning. By sticking the mopping part of his mop on the broomless end of his broom handle, he could do away with the mop handle (and the mop handles of his 103 underlings), thus saving valuable space in his janitors’ closet.
The second lightning bolt of genius didn’t hit him until the end of the 1960s, when he overheard some Philips suits discussing the First Consumerism Crisis that was threatening to bankrupt the company. Junior janitor Jupiter understood he could lose his dream job and suddenly realized how the solution to his storage space shortage problem could save Philips. And thus was born the HK 4250 Multi Blower: a single multifunctional appliance that could replace tens of conventional machines and give families room to breathe again.
It was a space heater, a laundry dryer, a floor heater, a hair dryer, a paint stripper, a leaf blower and a snow blower. It could even prepare food, all thanks to its twin fans and 2000 watt heating unit.
Soon, Dutch families were throwing away their single-purpose appliances and buying a Philips HK 4250 to replace them and free up space in their homes. And then they’d buy more Multi Blowers, because sometimes mum wanted to dry her laundry while dad was stripping paint.
By 1973, the average Dutch household owned 4.7 Multi Blowers. Also by 1973, the oil crisis struck. Suddenly, every form of energy came at a premium. Families either continued to use their Multi Blowers and went bankrupt, or pulled the plug and went back to the Stone Age, having to reinvent ways to heat their homes, dry their laundry, style their hair and rid their gardens of pesky leaves.
And so ended the short but tumultuous life of the Philips HK 4250 Multi Blower. Junior janitor Jupiter de Bruijn’s life ended some years later, in 1977, when he was struck by his third bolt of lightning, which wasn’t of the inspirational kind. During routine maintenance of the lighting poles of PSV football stadium he was surprised by a storm and hit by a thunder bolt. Two years earlier he’d decided, because he’d never been entirely sure of his gender, that he preferred to be called junior janitor Janet or Jupiter -and that’s what you’ll find on his weathered tombstone at Philips Cemetery in Eindhoven.