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Late 2008 we decided to invest in a new vacuum cleaner as our Kenmore canister vacuum has developed a pretty annoying high-pitched wheeze, probably as a result of years of misuse pretending that it is actually a shop vac, cleaning up plaster dust and other renovation mess. Although the canister vacuum does still efficiently remove dirt, the wheeze seemed like a good excuse to give the Kenmore much less work and find out whether iRobot's Roomba is an expensive gimmick or science fiction made into reality.

We decided on the Roomba 530. More sophisticated versions with prebuilt schedules do exist, but we're expecting a baby and had visions of mom and child settling down for a nap just as Roomba was due to roar to life.

Mary was highly sceptical at first, but now says it's the best appliance we've ever purchased. All we do is press the button that says clean and go away and let it do its thing. We often have it clean a room or two overnight. Sadly, it does not go up and down the stairs, but we just move it from floor to floor when things look like they could use a vacuum. Our house primarily consists of hardwood, lineoleum tiles and low pile carpet, so it is ideally suited to the robot's capabilities.

You do have to "Roomba-proof" first - making sure that if there are items it will knock over (eg fireplace tools..) that they are moved out of the way and arranging wires so that they are neatly pinned to the wall instead of along the floor where they will get tangled. It's a sign of the times when your interior decorating choices and furniture selection take Roomba compatibility into account, but there is no question that this little electronic maid has made our floors a better place, particularly under beds and couches. In fact it is so effective that we often wonder how we lived in such filth before.

We named our Roomba "Rosie" in honour of the Jetson's maid. Although Roombas mostly communicate with tones and music, some events can cause them to speak in a well-modulated female voice. We're not sure if there are any male Roombas out there...

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