Fun with Microwaves
By James Grahame
The first thing my father ever microwaved was a bun. It was sometime in the mid 1980s, and he nuked the poor thing on high for a good ten minutes. The unfortunate result was a superheated chunk of beige charcoal.
The microwave oven came about thanks to an accidental discovery by Raytheon Corporation researcher Percy Spencer shortly after WWII. I've been intending to write a brief history of the microwave oven for ages but never managed to get around to it. Luckily, Ron at I remember JFK recently penned an excellent piece exposing the history and myths behind one of the most useful gadgets ever to irradiate a kitchen.
"The first Raytheon Radarange (the name was a winning entry in an employee contest) was built in 1947. It was 6 feet tall and weighed 750 pounds. It was also water-cooled and consumed 3000 watts of power. But research continued, along with gradual miniaturization, and by the mid 50's, free-standing ovens cost less than $3000. That made them affordable investment by eateries and bakeries, whose operations were revolutionized by the ability to cook much faster.
As the technology got smaller and cheaper, Raytheon saw the potential for selling home-sized microwave ovens. So in 1967 Amana, a Raytheon division, began marketing the Radarange for $495."
Sadly, my dad failed to forgive the infernal machine for incinerating his afternoon snack. I never once saw him approach the microwave over the following couple of decades. [Image: Amana RR-5 Touchmatic Radarange, circa 1978, from The Secret Life of the Home exhibit at the Science Museum in London.]
When Microwave Ovens Were New [I remember JFK]