The Microwave Oven Was Invented As An Accidental Offshoot Of What Technology?
Although now ubiquitous, the microwave oven was once an expensive curiosity that was discovered entirely by accident. In 1945, Percy Spencer, an American engineer was working on a series high-power radar devices and stumbled upon the food-heating properties of microwave radiation. In the course of working on one of the machines, he noticed the Mr. Goodbar chocolate bar in his pocket held melted in an unusual fashion.
He conducted further investigation with other food stuffs. The first food every purposely cooked by microwave radiation was, fittingly enough, popcorn. He followed the popcorn with an egg, which exploded rather dramatically as it was heated from the inside out. After the initial experiments he build a metal box to serve as a Faraday cage for the radiation and pumped microwave radiation from the radar assembly into the box. Food placed inside would rise rapidly in temperature, confirming his hypothesis.
The first commercial microwave ovens were introduced in 1947. Dubbed the “Radarange”, they were almost six feet tall, weighed 750 pounds, pulled down 3 killowatts of power, and retailed for $5,000 (roughly $53,000 in today’s money). Thankfully, in the intervening half-century, prices and sizes have plummeted and a more effective microwave can be had for a fraction of the cost.