The July 2022 issue of IEEE Spectrum is here!

Close bar

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.

Keep Reading ↓Show less

This article is for IEEE members only. Join IEEE to access our full archive.

Join the world’s largest professional organization devoted to engineering and applied sciences and get access to all of Spectrum’s articles, podcasts, and special reports. Learn more →

If you're already an IEEE member, please sign in to continue reading.

Membership includes:

  • Get unlimited access to IEEE Spectrum content
  • Follow your favorite topics to create a personalized feed of IEEE Spectrum content
  • Save Spectrum articles to read later
  • Network with other technology professionals
  • Establish a professional profile
  • Create a group to share and collaborate on projects
  • Discover IEEE events and activities
  • Join and participate in discussions
A sign outside of a building says Palo Alto Research Center Xerox

An undated exterior view of the Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) is shown in Palo Alto, California.

Xerox/Getty Images

In late 1969, C. Peter McColough, chairman of Xerox Corp., told the New York Society of Security Analysts that Xerox was determined to develop “the architecture of information” to solve the problems that had been created by the “knowledge explosion.” Legend has it that McColough then turned to Jack E. Goldman, senior vice president of research and development, and said, “All right, go start a lab that will find out what I just meant.”

Keep Reading ↓Show less
{"imageShortcodeIds":[]}