James Dyson, the designer of many innovative products no-one knew they needed, announced his company's latest must-have domestic appliance at a press conference today. "A large proportion of homeowners install sliding metal loft ladders. But during the winter months, touching a freezing cold ladder can be a nasty shock if you're not wearing gloves. Or perhaps slippers."
Dyson, a trained engineer, came to prominence in the 1990s with his 'Cyclone technology' vacuum cleaner. At a stroke the groundbreaking machine did away with bags, effective cleaning and opaque bodywork. Indeed, its success was largely attributed to its transparent panels. Curious users were more interested in watching the painstakingly slow progress of a small piece of captured fluff than in the swathe of pet hairs left on the carpet in its wake. Most 'second wave' Cyclone buyers kept their old Hoovers for doing the job properly once the see-through fun bit was over.
More recently, the commercial-application Dyson 'Airblade' hand dryer has become a common feature in UK Motorway restrooms. Some non-Parkinson sufferers, particularly those on beta-blockers, find it possible to dry rock-steady hands in the narrow slot without touching the hidden inner surfaces. Dyson explained "If you do happen to touch the inside of the Airblade and if you are 'sensitive enough' to be concerned about any hygiene implications then no problem A further rinse under the tap and a quick shake of the hands or rub through the hair will soon have you on your way. As long as you're not bald, I suppose. Or wearing a wig. Which as a trained engineer I'm not."
With the next product, billionaire Dyson wanted to return to the domestic market. "At least as far as our sales are concerned. We earn more money by making them overseas where many things are much cheaper. Like productions costs. And safety inspections. And tax. We're not too keen on getting tied up with all that tax nonsense in the UK. In fact, on a purely personal note, if I stay in the country for more than another three hours this month I'll be liable to a UK income tax bill. So we'll have to wrap this up quickly."
Focusing on the new product, Dyson outlined it's genesis. "I was going up into my loft one winter's day and noticed how cold the ladder rails were. As a trained engineer, I could see what the problem was straight away. There was a shedload of fibreglass matting stuff, in between the ceiling joists and the loft floor boarding, which stopped the heat getting up there. It probably sounds simple to you now I've told you but honestly I don't think anyone had applied a really keen mind to it. As a quick-fix, I plumbed in a pair of 5 kilowatt equivalent radiators running straight off the central heating system. That took the edge off the chill up there and as a bonus we had no snow settle on our roof that winter. And it was a bloody cold winter. I can't tell you exactly what the temperatures were but the house never got really hot and our gas bill was enormous - the biggest for years - so I'm thinking 'pretty darned cold'. Of course, being a trained engineer I couldn't let it rest and it wasn't long before I had the technical drawing kit out and the 4H pencils sharpened. I soon came up with an elegant Dyson solution, a straightforward electrical heating element that attaches to the everyday sliding loft ladder".
Part of the Dyson brand's success over the years has been its ability to capture public imagination with offbeat product names, such as the Ballbarrow. Essentially a wheelbarrow. But with the wheel replaced by a ball. "For this baby we wanted a name that incorporated not only Dyson state-of-the-art technology but also the traditional family history and nostalgia associated with the sort of things we keep in our lofts." says Dyson "I came up with 'Old Sparky', which we'll use in Europe and the far east. The USA chaps say that for some reason we need an alternative over there, but the jury's still out on that one - after all they're the folks who came up with the 'no-one can say my cleaners suck' strap line on our first Cyclone ad's."
"Early trials did throw up some minor electrical glitches but very few fatalities and those problems have mostly been sorted. But, if there is any serious fizzing, popping or crackling in use, we suggest turning it off for a few minutes. Once those sliding rails get welded together it can be a real bugger to get them free again."
"In any event, just to be safe, we always advise covering vulnerable body parts in a tough but malleable insulating medium. Rubber gloves and wellington boots seem to work quite well".