From World War II Radar to Microwave Popcorn, the Cavity Magnetron Was There

This compact cavity magnetron gave the Allies a way of producing high-power microwaves for radar

7 min read
Photo: Ingenium
Photo: Ingenium

By the summer of 1940, World War II had been raging in Western Europe for nearly a year. During the Battle of Britain, German aircraft bombed London and industrial centers and blockaded seaports. The United States, meanwhile, was still actively trying to stay out of the war.

Against this backdrop, the physicist Edward “Taffy" Bowen traveled with a group of other British scientists and military officers to Washington, D.C. Bowen had been entrusted with a black metal box that contained technical secrets related to England's wartime R&D. The purpose of the journey, officially called the British Technical and Scientific Mission, was to share these secrets with the United States and Canada, in the hope that they would produce workable weapons and other equipment for the war.

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How the Graphical User Interface Was Invented

Three decades of UI research came together in the mice, windows, and icons used today

18 min read
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Stylized drawing of a desktop computer with mouse and keyboard, on the screen are windows, Icons, and menus
Getty Images/IEEE Spectrum
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Mice, windows, icons, and menus: these are the ingredients of computer interfaces designed to be easy to grasp, simplicity itself to use, and straightforward to describe. The mouse is a pointer. Windows divide up the screen. Icons symbolize application programs and data. Menus list choices of action.

But the development of today’s graphical user interface was anything but simple. It took some 30 years of effort by engineers and computer scientists in universities, government laboratories, and corporate research groups, piggybacking on each other’s work, trying new ideas, repeating each other’s mistakes.

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