The microwave oven, a product found in almost every household across the globe was not that common 50 years ago. Today microwaves are an integral component of every household and come with grilling facilities and various modes to add to the convenience factor. Originally, however, microwaves were built for magnetron tubes used for short-range military radar. The technology was built to detect enemy aircraft, namely the Germans. It allowed the British to see the Nazi raids at night while the Nazi army was left blind. This also led to the rise of the myth that carrots improved eyesight. This was a ploy at hiding the development of short-wave radar.
The initial use of microwaves?
Credited with its discovery, a Raytheon engineer Percy L. Spencer, stumbled upon the idea that microwaves can be used for cooking by accident. Raytheon at the time was a company that had its claws firmly lodged into the belly of defense-applied technology. The British secret technology was improved and the manufacturing process simplified with the help of Raytheon. The company was then awarded a small contract to manufacture the magnetrons for the British radars. The need to mass-produce these radars made the British turn to the United States for help. Raytheon at the time was too small to be in the running yet managed to place a foot in the door. The company had some working history with microwave tubes and transmitting tubes. As World War II came to an end microwave technology needed a new use.
The first food cooked in a microwave oven
The decision to use microwaves for cooking was not intentional. It wasn’t until 1945 that Percy Spencer realized, by accident, that microwaves could heat food. A peanut bar in Spencer’s pocket began to heat and cook as he stood close to the power tubes of radar sets that were being tested. Curious about it, Spencer asked one of the office boys to bring in a bag of popcorn. The kernel popped across the lab floor and confirmed Percy’s suspicions. So, the first food deliberately cooked in a microwave was popcorn.
It seems fitting that we have a large assortment of microwave popcorn today- doesn’t it? To test the waters further, Percy soon brought in with him a kettle and placed a raw egg inside. The magnetron was brought close to the kettle and the egg burst like a firecracker on the 4th of July. This happened due to the fact that the yolk cooked much faster than the remaining part of the egg. In the modern age, there is virtually no limit to the different ways you can cook eggs in a microwave oven.
The introduction of microwave ovens
In 1947, Raytheon put to the forefront of the world’s first microwave oven! It was called the ‘Radarange’. They were not compact or modest in appearance and were about as big as a refrigeration unit and cost anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000. Not being a B2C company Raytheon struggled with resources when it came to marketing the microwave oven. The offering was unique but its value unapplied and the concept was foreign. Raytheon wanted to push the commercial Radarange microwaves to restaurants and reheating meals on flights. To overcome this obstacle the right distribution channels and marketing infrastructure was needed. This happened when Raytheon entered a licensing agreement with Tappan Stove Company in 1952. In 3 short years, Tappan showcased a compact but less powerful microwave which cost half the price.
The entry of microwave ovens into American households
It was in 1965 that microwaves concretized their place in American households. This was achieved once Raytheon acquired a well-established refrigerator and air condition manufacturer- Amana Refrigeration, Inc. People still did not see how the microwave oven could change the way they cooked food or how it could save women time. Finally, in 1967 a 100-volt tabletop microwave oven was manufactured for domestic use. It cost under $500 and its introduction gave women a fair amount of freedom from a few monotonous household chores.
The evolution of microwaves
Within just those 20 years microwaves went from military-grade technology to domestic convenience appliances. Since then microwaves have been improved by various manufacturers, each adding something new to the mix. Today, you can cook using a microwave with a number of materials such as glass, ceramic and microwave safe plastics. Baked items, grilled delicacies or frozen articles all can be pushed into a microwave and be ready-to-eat in a few short minutes.
When it comes to buying a microwave you needn’t go back 60 years to track the best one. If you are looking for a microwave oven for a small family then you can make your search simpler. If not, don’t fret. The article will help you identify your unique needs and help you make an informed decision. Microwaves have come a long way since popping corn.