A Brief History of Microwave Ovens | The Henry Ford’s Innovation Nation


– The kitchens of our grandparents were very different than
the kitchens we have today. There were no buttons and
digital displays back then. Their fridges couldn’t
talk to their phones. Stoves had things called knobs, and you actually had to light a match to fire it up. Then in the 1970s things changed. All of a sudden, our food we could nuke with an oven that began as a fluke. (upbeat music) Until recently, the
techiest kitchen gadget was the microwave oven. The miracle meal zapper that was literally discovered by accident. – It comes out of the
research they were doing during World War II on radar. And one of the engineers walked by what’s called a magnetron, which produces electromagnetic waves, and he noticed that the chocolate bar in his pocket melted. So he decided to investigate this. He brought some popcorn in a bag and put it near the magnetron and it popped. – The engineer
was Percy Spencer, who realized the potential for using tiny electromagnetic waves, or microwaves to cook food. He built a prototype oven in 1946, and the first radar ranges were available the following year. The Henry Ford Museum’s
curator of domestic life, Jeanie Miller, showed me how microwaves have changed through the decades. If I could only have one
appliance in my house, it would be a microwave. – Well, that’s a very good choice because the microwave proved to
be the most time-saving and convenient device to enter the kitchen in the last half of the 20th century. – Microwave cooking units are indeed revolutionary. Cooking without heat. – Behind you, that does not
look like a microwave oven. – This is a very early commercial model of a microwave oven. They were big and expensive. – They weren’t just big. They must have been heavy. – They were very heavy. First prototypes were 750 pounds, and this one from the
mid-’50s is 350 pounds. – Break it down, I’m assuming microwaves
are tiny, tiny waves, much shorter than radio waves. – Shorter than radio waves. The microwaves come. They are absorbed by about
the first inch of the food, and the microwaves create friction, which then creates heat. And that heat is then conveyed
further into the food. – I’m looking at the three here. What is the progression? What is the progression about? – The progression of microwave technology is, in the end, about making
them smaller, more compact, but also more powerful. Modern ones are now
controlled by computer chips, so they can do more
specialized kind of cooking or defrosting with the turn of a dial. – What’s this fish? – This fish is one of the specialized pieces of cookware to cook
in the microwave ovens, and can you guess what it cooks? – Fish? – Yeah, cool. – Sometimes a hat is just a hat. – Yes, the microwave changed
the way you had to cook because in a microwave
oven you can’t put anything in there that is metal
because it can arc and spark, and it could start a fire
in the microwave oven. – To honor Percy Spencer, the man who made microwaves
macro for the entire world, Jeanie and I decided to pop some corn. Thank you, magnetron. Couldn’t live without this. – Oh, it’s great. – I mean, literally could
not live without this.

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