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"Introduction of the Microwave"

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Looking at the world we live in today, many things that we have or use are taken for granted. We don't think much about how a telephone works when we're talking to our friends, or how emails and faxes can travel from one unit to another within a blink of an eye. When we go inside our homes and turn on our TV's, do we ever wonder how the human mind could ever comprehend radio waves and electromagnetic energy? How were these things invented? How did anyone get the first ideas to experiment? After all, complex things such as computers, televisions, and microwaves had to have had a great impact on society. And so did simpler things, such as bar codes, plastic, and Velcro.

By 1976, over 60% of U.S. households were using microwaves, just 30 years after its first invention. Today, microwaves are used all around the world, resulting in fresher food, less waste, and money saved. But how did the microwave get started? Who invented them and how did the inventor make such an astounding discovery? Because of this revolutionary new invention, Americans will never be the same in the ways of "old-fashioned" cooking.

In 1946, Dr. Percy Spencer noticed something very unusual. As an engineer with the Raytheon Corporation, he was testing a new vacuum tube called a magnetron, (which was also used the previous year in the making of the first electronic computer). During his experimenting, a candy bar in his pocket suddenly began to melt for no apparent reason. This surprised Spencer and sparked an odd curiosity in him. He went off and got some popcorn kernels, bringing them back and laying them in front of the tube. And oddly enough, the popcorn popped all over his lab. Now the experimenting began.

The next morning, Spencer and a curious colleague of his got to together to continue searching out the cause of the previous happenings. They placed an egg by the tube, which eventually began to tremor and quake. It exploded. They had discovered a source of low-density microwave energy. Spencer, now excited, began to design a small metal box into which he could feed the closed-in energy. This was the first microwave oven.

Eventually the microwave invention would revolutionize family kitchens all around the world, but when it was first introduced, the initial reactions were unfavorable. The first model was a rather large one, weighing approximately 750 pounds! Because the first microwave was so big, it cost a high sum of $5000. These microwaves were water-cooled, so plumbing and installation were required as well. From the start, people were very doubtful, and irrational fears had developed. Did these new microwaves cause radiation poisoning? Could they make someone go blind or even become sterile? No one knew if the benefits of microwave cooking outweighed the risks surrounding the use of this new invention. Still, even with all the doubts surrounding this product, engineers continued to make new improvements and push on with making the "perfect" microwave oven.

The microwaves were installed in restaurants. They were taken into vending companies. Not only were microwaves used for cooking, but also by various companies to dry potato chips, roast coffee beans and peanuts and dry cork, ceramics, leather, flowers, and match heads. Between 1952 and 1955, the first home modeled oven was introduced, costing only $1295. Two years later, the first countertop, domestic oven was made. It was a 100-volt microwave oven, which cost just under $500 and was smaller, safer, and more reliable than previous models. Sales began to boom.

By the seventies, more and more people were finding the benefits of microwave cooking. Fears had dissipated. Doubt was turning into demand. Microwaves were becoming a necessity in the commercial market, and everyone had to have one. The sales of microwaves continued to skyrocket and eventually exceed gas ranges by 1975. All of a sudden, microwave ovens had become an even more commonly known kitchen appliance than dishwashers.

Along with many other inventions, the microwave was just one of many improvements to our culture. After dying at the age of 76, Dr. Spencer held 150 patents for the microwave and was considered one of the world's leading experts in the field of microwave energy, despite his lack of a high school education. The expanding market of microwave ovens went on to become a revolutionary household item. Almost any size, shape, and colors have been added. Since its first model, new improvements have been made, such as convection heat, probe cooking, sensor cooking, and heating and drying applications. The microwave oven is now used all around the world, in homes, restaurants, and companies. Because of this invention, Americans will never be the same in the ways of "old-fashioned" cooking.

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