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Wednesday, March 14, 2012

1940s: Inventions

I am a stay at home mom and l have an appliance I would die without.  Can you guess what it is?  Give you a hint:  it is a box, it whirs, and it makes stuff into food.  Yep, that would be a microwave oven!  The number one most used appliance in my house, savior of dinner, and king of the leftovers.  Hard to believe that it was invented in 1946 isn’t it.
crosscut image of a magnatron
As with all great scientific invention, the microwave oven was created by accident.  While working on research for radar technology Dr. Percy Spencer noticed that the candy bar in his pocket melted when he stood close to a new vacuum tube  (the magnatron) he was testing.  The curious scientist then decided to see what would happen he placed popcorn next to it.  To his surprise, it popped!  After a bit more experimentation with foods, and the code name “speedy weenie project,” he designed a metal box to hold the tube, and the rest is history. 

Dr. Spencer worked for the Raytheon Company and in 1947 they introduced the first microwave oven called the "Radarange." It was the size of a refrigerator and you could purchase one for about $5,000.  70 years later and we can by tiny ones for less than $100!

The 1940 US Census will be released in less than 20 days!   Check out all the amazing information, webinars, and blog posts at the 1940 US Census Community Project.  Even better, help us all and sign up to become an indexer!

Disclosure: as a member of the 1940 US Census Ambassador Program, this post has entered me into the weekly contest for a $50 Amazon gift card.

*Image: Magnetron cross-cut


  1. Nice posting, Shannon. Funny, my posting is also connected to Raytheon: Vannevar Bush founded Raytheon.

  2. Wow, I did not know that! Thanks for sharing.