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How it Happened: A candy bar helped invent the microwave oven

I miss the microwave oven (or just “microwave” as it’s popularly known today) most when we boondock or tent camp. This fabulous invention can thaw, cook, and reheat almost any food that fits inside it. Most likely you have one inside your RV and use it too. Those hamburgers you grilled last night? Pop leftovers into the microwave and enjoy the “yum” one more time.

Over 90 percent of Americans use a microwave oven in their homes today. It’s heralded as the number one technology that makes everyday life easier. I’d have to agree, wouldn’t you? But how did the microwave oven come about? Let’s look at the history of the microwave oven.

The history of the microwave oven

You may be surprised to know that this modern convenience came about because of an accident involving a melted candy bar. Yum! I know you’re craving to know more, so read on!

The unlikely scientist behind the history of the microwave

Percy Spenser was an unlikely scientist. Percy never completed grammar school, yet taught himself enough to eventually become employed by the Raytheon Manufacturing Company. (Yep. That’s the same company that continues to produce military training systems and more today.) Percy was well known as a problem solver throughout the company. He earned several patents for his work with radar magnetrons.

Radar magnetrons and a candy bar

One day in 1946, Percy Spenser was working to increase the power of a radar magnetron when he reached into his pocket, preparing to have a snack. To his surprise, his snack, a peanut cluster bark was melted! Ever curious, Percy put a raw egg under the magnetron tube. It exploded! Corn kernels produced a much tastier result, popcorn, which Percy excitedly shared with his coworkers.

As a next step, Percy fashioned a metal box and then introduced microwaves into it. Percy found that the metal held the microwaves inside and foods heated at a much faster rate inside his “box” than in a conventional oven. The microwave oven was born!

Not an overnight success

It took years for the microwave to win the favor of American consumers. Many feared that the microwaves might negatively impact their health. Other folks balked at the size and cost of the first microwave ovens. Raytheon’s original Radarange stood 5.5 feet tall and weighed 750 pounds! Not only that—the Radarange cost a whopping $5,000!

Over time, the size and cost of Percy’s invention were reduced. In 1965, Amana introduced its “Radarange.” At a cost of just under $500 and a nifty countertop size, consumers finally jumped on board. And that is the history of the microwave! We’ve been cooking with them ever since.

What’s your favorite food to microwave? Share with us, please!

Oh, and if you’re craving popcorn right now, this is for you.

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Abigale Buss
6 months ago

Because of microwave ovens I have never been able to eat cold pizza anymore🍕🤣

Tom
6 months ago

Wonder what else Percy zap there by his candy bar pocket. Did he have any offspring after that discovery?

TIM MCRAE
6 months ago

Did Percy and his cohorts die young with strange cancers etc.

Seems they were pretty slap happy with their ray guns …

Drew
6 months ago

I’m sure that the microwave oven has also led to people getting diabetes as well.

Cheryl V Clark
6 months ago

I have no microwave oven in my tiny travel trailer and don’t miss it. I use old school cooking methods to work around microwaving. So when my home microwave oven suffered a burned wire and stopped working, I disposed of it. I honestly haven’t missed it and now enjoy more counter space.

Ron T.
6 months ago

In 1967 when visiting a college, I went into a classroom where a microwave generator was set up at one end and a small parabolic dish on the other. The presenters put an egg at the focus of the dish and cooked it with microwaves. Impressive at the time but now I wonder how safe that set-up really was.

Jesse Crouse
6 months ago

In 1946 we still valued common sense and a natural ability to “figure out how things worked or didn’t.” Do you think the current Raytheon Co. would hire a Percy today without a college degree or two. We rely on pieces of paper today to tell us the “value of a person” instead of what they have done. Look at Ford, Hewlet-Packard, and Micosoft to name a few.