Zap! The kitchen microwave turns 50

The now ubiquitous appliance got its start here in Massachusetts.

white opened microwave oven, 3D rendering isolated on white background

Massachusetts-based Raytheon pioneered the countertop microwave, which debuted 50 years ago this month.

> October 8, 1945 — Patent filed for “method of treating foodstuffs” using electromagnetic energy by Raytheon Manufacturing Co. engineer Percy Spencer, a native of Howland, Maine

> 12 — Spencer’s age in 1906, when he dropped out of school to work; despite his lack of formal education, he was named on at least 108 patents


> 750 — Weight in pounds of Raytheon’s first commercial microwave oven, marketed to restaurants when released in 1947

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> 5 foot 6 — Height of the first commercial microwave, which sold for $5,000

> 4 — Number of knobs and buttons on the Radarange (none were for popcorn)

> $495 — Cost of the Amana Radarange in 1967 (around $3,500 today)

> $35 — Least expensive countertop microwave now available at Walmart (some models can cost $1,500 or more at various stores)


> 150 — Watts of energy produced by the first countertop microwave

> 1975 — Year the sale of microwave ovens surpassed the sale of gas ranges

> $24.5 billion — Projected sales of microwave ovens globally in 2020

> 1982 — Pillsbury offers the first microwave popcorn, which comes frozen


Shaquille O'Neal arrives to the NBA Awards at Basketball City on June 26, 2017 in New York. / AFP PHOTO / Bryan R. SmithBRYAN R. SMITH/AFP/Getty Images
AFP/Getty Images

“What comes out of the microwave hot doesn’t always stay hot. I know, because I eat bagels in the morning.”  — Shaquille O’Neal, after his Miami Heat overcame a 25-point deficit to beat the Boston Celtics, March 16, 2006

Sources: Amana; Raytheon;;The Chicago Tribune; The New York Times; US Patent and Trademark Office; Walmart; Allied Market Research; USA Today

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