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A Brief History of the Microwave Oven

Where the “radar” in Raytheon’s Radarange came from

4 min read
A photo of a woman standing behind an early version of a microwave oven.
Bettmann/Getty Images

As World War II came to an end, so did the market for the magnetron tubes that had been used to generate microwaves for short-range military radar. Magnetron makers like Raytheon eagerly sought new applications for the technology.

It was well known that radio waves would heat dielectric materials, and the use of dielectric heating in industrial and medical contexts was fairly common. The idea of heating food with radio waves wasn’t new either: Bell Labs, General Electric, and RCA had all been working on variations of the technology for some time. Indeed, at the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago, Westinghouse demonstrated a 10-kilowatt shortwave radio transmitter that cooked steaks and potatoes between two metal plates. But nothing came of these culinary adventures.

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The Lies that Powered the Invention of Pong

A fake contract masked a design exercise–and started an industry

4 min read
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Pong arcade game in yellow cabinet containing black and white TV display, two knobs are labeled Player 1 and Player 2, Atari logo visible.
Roger Garfield/Alamy

In 1971 video games were played in computer science laboratories when the professors were not looking—and in very few other places. In 1973 millions of people in the United States and millions of others around the world had seen at least one video game in action. That game was Pong.

Two electrical engineers were responsible for putting this game in the hands of the public—Nolan Bushnell and Allan Alcorn, both of whom, with Ted Dabney, started Atari Inc. in Sunnyvale, Calif. Mr. Bushnell told Mr. Alcorn that Atari had a contract from General Electric Co. to design a consumer product. Mr. Bushnell suggested a Ping-Pong game with a ball, two paddles, and a score, that could be played on a television.

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