Sophont
Sunday, March 20, 2005
 
The Geek Guide to Kosher Machines
Wired 12.11: "But as appliances got more high tech - gel-pad touch controls; LED screens with temperature and burner settings; digital humidity gauges - creating a Sabbath mode became more difficult. Mayer Preger, a salesman at the Manhattan Center for Kitchen and Bath, noticed a problem when fridges started using sensors instead of simple light switches. 'You can't hack the new refrigerators like you used to,' he complains. 'There's all these computer chips in them.'

That's where Jonah Ottensoser comes in. He doesn't hack the fridges so much as work with manufacturers to give appliances a kosher seal of approval. A retired helicopter engineer who is himself Orthodox, Ottensoser teaches Sabbath law to technical teams at companies like General Electric, Electrolux, and Viking. His job: to guide them in building electronic brains and mechanical guts that are Sabbath-compliant.

Ottensoser works for Star-K, a nonprofit that certifies food products as kosher. Of several hundred kosher agencies in the world, Star-K is the only one that certifies technology, and Ottensoser is the firm's only appliance consultant. That makes him the world's lone kosher geek, the man tasked with certifying that the movement of every electron in an appliance is sanctioned by God."

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