The Atomic coffee maker dates from around 1948- immediately after the Second World War. This was the Atomic Age- and it seems not just coffee makers were marketed as Atomic:
Atomic Ray gun? Or perhaps an Atomic robot. Our personal favourite is the Atomic Energy Kit from the 50’s. Great toy for all the family. It contains ‘real radioactive materials’, such as ‘uranium ore’. Although it is labeled as ‘safe and educational’ we have a feeling it will not be re-released soon.
It seems to me that Giordano Robbiati was somewhat of a forward thinker when he chose the Atomic name for his new coffee machine. It was immediately after World War Two and feelings about the recent emergence of Atomic technology (and weaponry) were ambivalent at best. On the one hand there was a great deal of fear created by the development and use of Atomic weapons at the end of the War, on the other Atomic energy seemed to offer an almost miraculous energy solution for the future. The Atomic word became associated with notions of modernity, high technology and a new post-industrial technological society.
Perhaps Robbiati saw the emergence of this new Atomic zeitgeist and chose the Atomic name accordingly: he would ride the wave of Atomic popularity and use it to sell his new coffee maker. This clever choice of names also was at work when Robbiati named his MARTIAN Espresso machine: this was also an exciting, futuristic name for a coffee maker and a very original choice for an Italian speaking manufacturer. Traditionally Italian manufactured coffee machines have Italian names: Gaggia, Faema, La Cibali, etc. Not so with Robbiati’s Atomic and Martian machines. The use of (English) names ‘Atomic’ and ‘Martian’ certainly hint at an understanding of American popular culture of the 1950’s – specifically science fiction movies of that period which were obsessed with Atomic power and Martian invasions. The Martian itself seems to incorporate sci-fi elements in its form, and somewhat resembles an Alien space craft- whilst the Atomic coffee maker is actually full of references to the Atomic Mushroom cloud shape- from the profile of the water knob to the outline of the lettering on the classic Brevetti Robbiati Atomic labels.
One could say Mr Robbiati was looking to the future and also looking to the USA when he named his Martian and Atomic machines. Whilst the names were unusual the vision was actually typical of Italian designer of the era. Heavily influenced by American automotive designs coming out of Detroit and the skyline of Manhattan. Faema, Gaggia and La Cimbali all produced espresso machines covered in the chrome and styling of 1950’s American cars and buildings. The classic Gaggia America Lever espresso machine is a good example of this perdiod of Milan design (1948-1960).
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