Top Inventions: Microwave Oven

Can you imagine a world without being able to throw a slice of pizza in the microwave for a quick meal, no Easy Mac, no heating up left overs from last night? Prior to 1954, this was the way of life. People actually had to cook…on the stove. The entire invention was actually an accident! Let’s take a look at the history of our beloved microwave oven.

During World War II, two scientists created the magnetron, a tube that produces microwaves. The magnetron was developed to assist in finding Nazi warplanes on their way to bomb the British Isles. Years later, in 1946, Dr. Percy Spencer with the Raytheon Corporation found that the radar waves had melted the candy bar in his pocket. Dr. Spencer was intrigued by this and tried some experiments on his own to see if the radar waves could cook other types of food. He placed popcorn kernels near the tubes and watched as they popped and cracked as if they had been heated on the stove. This result intrigued Dr. Spencer even more. The next morning he placed an egg in the same place and watched as it quickly began to shake.  As he went to get a closer look, the egg exploded. He then realized that the radar waves could heat the candy bar, popcorn and egg, what else could it cook? His experiments continued.

In 1954 the first commercial microwave went for sale. It was the 1161 Radarange, giving out 1600 watts. This model was extremely large at five and a half feet tall and weighing nearly 750 pounds along with being expensive, selling for $2000 to $3000, making it only practical for restaurants. In 1955 they tried to market a smaller wall unit for home use. At a cost of $1,295 it did not sell well.

The first modern-day version of the microwave, the counter-top version went for sale in 1966 for nearly $500. Sales started off slow, but quickly grew in popularity over the coming years. As the microwave made advances, the popularity grew more and more. In 1970, they produced 40,000 units, which grew to a million produced in 1975.

Today you can’t go into a kitchen without finding a microwave oven. They have been created in so many different colors, shapes, sizes and prices that everyone can afford this wonderful appliance. The microwave oven has become a part of standard options in kitchens worldwide.