Digital Slob

Curt Brandao

Roomba beats Hoover
and Slob combined

It's tough for Digital Slobs to pick the best way to clean our homes, especially since arson remains illegal in all 50 states.

Our heads fill with questions. Must work be involved? How much grime is too much grime? What kind of heads-up will our in-laws give before visiting?

Therefore, to offer the kind of broad perspective Slobs can appreciate, I tested the latest high-tech robotic vacuum, the Roomba Discovery, against the cleaning ambitions of three common household items: A Hoover Elite 350 upright vacuum, myself and a potted rubber tree plant.

Let's see how we all stack up:


Roomba: As big as a dinner plate, the robot rolls around sucking debris into a small, detachable dirt bin and runs on a rechargeable battery. When power is low, it navigates back to its docking station to recharge.

Hoover: The Elite 350 has two height settings and is tethered by an electrical cord that would seem to limit its range. It also has a long handle, the purpose for which remains unclear.

Plant: This stationary multi-celled organism produces big leaves and can grow up to 10 feet. It runs on water, light, and some say thrives when lavished with loving, verbal praise.

Slob: I'm a biped boasting two opposable thumbs and a brain capable of abstract thought. I'm fueled primarily by individually wrapped yellow sponge cakes with white cream filling. Praise works on me, too.


Roomba: Employing the same algorithms used by minesweepers, it zigzags across floors in random patterns, turns when it hits something, and then resumes forward motion. It can bounce around under a chair for minutes on end, but thanks to programming that must involve prime numbers and is thus completely lost on me, it eventually escapes.

Hoover: Once plugged in, it roars ominously and glares with a bright headlight. It also has a dirt bag big enough to house a lifetime of hair, lint and shards of broken glass left after boisterous domestic disputes.

Plant: Using chlorophyll, it turns carbon dioxide into oxygen, a key building block to life. In lieu of napkins, its leaves can also be used to wipe mustard off a cheek.

Slob: I can swallow a Krispy Kreme donut in one bite, keeping household remnants of sugary dough to a bare minimum.


Roomba: It doggedly gets to almost every corner, and is powerful enough to remove any evidence left on your floor within, say, this presidential term. But once, while I was watching the part of "2001: A Space Odyssey" where HAL the computer locks astronaut Dave out of the Discovery and won't let him back in, I could swear it stopped cleaning for a second to giggle a little. Coincidentally, its full name is "Roomba Discovery." Hmmm.

Hoover: Aside from illuminating the closet with its headlight and shielding the patch of floor directly underneath it from a thick layer of dust, it was useless.

Plant: While our lives all depend on photosynthesis, don't count on it to eliminate the pizza-crust debris under your dinner table unless you're willing to wait hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

Slob: On Tuesday I cut my toenails and, realizing I was being evaluated, threw the clippings in a waste basket instead of tossing them behind the couch.

Overall, the Roomba was the clear winner, except when it came to swallowing donuts whole, a problem than can surely be solved with a few software adjustments.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.
Also see www.digitalslob.com

Curt Brandao is the Star-Bulletin's production editor. Reach him at: cbrandao@starbulletin.com



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