DID YOU KNOW YOUR MICROWAVE OVEN IS A TOTALLY ACCIDENTAL INVENTION FROM DECADES AGO?
So I’m old enough to remember a world before there were microwave ovens. I also remember some people being excited at this new piece of realized futurism, as well as an aunt who thought it would damage us. But even as early as 1997, more than 90% of households in the US owned at least one microwave oven. And of course they’re popular worldwide, with more than 30 million sold globally each year. But one thing I didn’t know or remember is that the microwave oven’s invention was an accident!
ALMOST EVERYONE HAS A MICROWAVE, AND ALMOST NO ONE KNOWS ITS ORIGINS
And, well, I don’t really remember a world without the microwave oven, just one before they got popular and appeared in everyone’s kitchen. Because the microwave was invented in 1945 by Percy Spencer, a Raytheon engineer. If Raytheon sounds familiar, it’s because it was a defense technology company. Spencer had been working with a radar magnetron, and one day it melted a nut cluster chocolate bar in his pocket by accident. Imagine if it had cooked something else! That’s the epitome of dumb luck.
FIRST EVER MICROWAVE WOULD COST TODAY’S EQUIVALENT OF $76,000, THE SIZE OF A FRIDGE
Spencer then tested the machine on an egg. It blew up, of course. And then they tried popcorn kernels and realized their success, quickly applying for a patent. Two years later, they released the first commercially available microwave oven, the Radarange. Each one fit into a cabinet the size of a fridge and cost between $2,000 and $3,000. The average car that year cost about $1,800, and the median family income was $3,000. Between the size and the cost, I can’t imagine there were too many sales. Today, that would be like paying $76,000 for a microwave you needed its own room for!
For some reason, I want to eat some affordable popcorn now.