This Day in Tech History

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Rotating Molecules Really Fast


January 24, 1950: Microwave Oven Patented

What happens when we rotate molecules in food stuff really fast? The energy is dispersed as heat. Percy Spencer discovered this accidently when a chocolate bar in his pocket melted as he was experimenting with microwave tubes designed for radar systems.


Percy LeBaron Spencer was an American self-taught engineer working for Raytheon. At the 9298781842_9c98cd57d3_ztime, he was working on an active radar set when he noticed that a chocolate Mr. Goodbar in his pocket started to melt. His experiments began.

The first food he deliberately cooked with microwaves was popcorn. The second was an egg that exploded in the face of one of his co-experimenters.


Speedy Weeny

The first time the public was able to use a microwave oven was in January 1947, when the Speedy Weeny vending machine was placed in Grand Central Terminal to dispense “sizzling delicious” hot dogs.

In ‘47 Raytheon built the first commercially available microwave oven, the “Radarange”. It was almost 6 feet tall, weighed 750 lb. and cost about $5,000 ($52,273 in today’s dollars).


An early commercial model introduced in 1954 sold for $2,000 to $3,000 ($17,000 to $26,000 in today’s dollars). In 1965, Raytheon acquired Amana and in 1967, they introduced the first popular home model, the countertop Radarange, at a price of $495 ($3,465 in today’s dollars). As usually happens, when manufacturing techniques improved costs come down and sales volume jumped to 40,000 units for the U.S. in 1970. That grew to one million by 1975.

Radar Range

Radar Range 1967

As studies have shown, the radiation produced by a microwave oven is non-ionizing. It therefore does not have the cancer risks associated with ionizing radiation such as X-rays and high-energy particles. Long-term rodent studies to assess cancer risk have so far failed to identify any carcinogenici

Spencer’s Patent:

Microwave Fun


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