The famous American inventor, Thomas Alva Edison, once said: “Anything that won’t sell, I don’t want to invent. Its sale is proof of utility, and utility is success. ” His perception was precisely accurate even to date, as the success of any product depends on the demand for it in the market’s economy. Inventions have continuously been reconstructed in different ways stretching technology to new lengths, which has changed the way we live today.
When comparing the lifestyle of people in today’s world with those in the past, it is easy to recognize the way in which technology has changed us as; we now rely on it to assist in everyday activities. One such technological device, which is currently relied upon by many is the microwave oven. It is common to have microwave ovens in many different kitchen atmospheres; such as restaurants, offices and homes. At present, it is safe to say most families, over 95% of American households, own a microwave oven. Many of which commented that this device is difficult or impossible to do without it (Remich, 2007).
According to a report by Lukovitz (2009), the economic crisis had an impact upon many Americans, which led them to change the way, they ate. This change led to many people eating at home but not necessarily cooking their own food. As the microwave oven gained popularity among households, the objective of this essay is to examine the origins of the microwave ovens in addition to the impact it has on the consumers. During World War II there were numerous radar related research projects being undertaken. These investigations were carried about using magnetrons, a vacuum tube which can produce microwave radiation (Gallawa, 2009).
The invention of the microwave oven was therefore classified as a by-product of another technology since this was the method in which it was created. Dr. Percy LeBaron Spencer, a famous engineer with the Raytheon Corporation, was the first creator of the microwave oven in 1946 (Gallawa, 2009). While testing the vacuum tubing, Spencer realized the chocolate bar in his pocket melted and as such, he went on to experiment with popcorn, which popped, and finally with an egg, that exploded. A design was then fashioned to contain all the heat so as to cook food.
This invention was to revolutionize the world of cooking from that day forward. Upon the early years of the product, microwave ovens were usually over five feet tall, weighed over 750 pounds and was priced at approximately $5000 each (Gallawa, 2009). A picture of such microwave ovens can be seen in figure one of the appendix. These microwave ovens needed plumbing upon assemble as the magnetron tube had to be water-cooled. During those years, the oven was not very popular; however, Raytheon Corporations thought differently and carried on to invest into the product.
As the years went by, the improvements made the microwave oven more reliable and lightweight. Developments of new air-cooled magnetron were also undertaken eliminating the need for a plumber (Gallawa, 2009). As the microwave oven became recognized throughout the food industry, for less wastage and cutting costs, there were also new applications for their usage. Some industries used the microwave oven for drying potato chips, roasting coffee beans and other drying applications (Gallawa, 2009).
The microwave oven was therefore becoming popular among many as the usage of it became endless. As with all great technologies, there is always room for improvement within the market and this is what was happening to the microwave oven. Thus enter the era of compact microwave ovens. Two years after Raytheon Manufacturing Company acquired Amana Refrigeration, they introduced the line of compact microwave ovens. Introduced in 1967 these compact microwave ovens, called the Radarange, were a countertop model priced at $495 (SMECC, 2007).
An image of these compact microwave ovens can be seen in figure two of the appendix. This microwave oven also had similar effects upon the market as it was not popular and the company was not getting the sales it deserves as yet. According to Gallawa (2009), the first time the microwave oven sales exceeded those of gas ranges is in 1975. From this point onwards it was expected that sales of the microwave ovens would continue to increase especially in the next year. At present, microwave ovens come in many different styles and sizes adapting to the needs of the consumer.
For instance some persons may prefer a convection microwave oven with a feature, which saves energy while others may choose a built in microwave oven to compliment their kitchen decor. Upon the invention of any product, there have been changes and modifications for improve its reliability in addition to adapting to the needs of the consumers. When emphasizing the change and innovation upon inventions created, Joseph Schumpeter (1934) made the following thesis; ‘They have employed existing means of production differently, more appropriately, more adventurously. They have “carried out new combinations”.
They are entrepreneurs’ (Lumsdaine and Binks 2007). This interpretation attempts to explain the definition of an entrepreneur and analyzes them to be anyone who can make change upon an invention. Dr. Percy LeBaron Spencer can therefore be classed as an entrepreneur along the definitions of Joseph Schumpeter. He continued by explaining these changes can be categorized into two groups; discrete and gradual changes. The innovation of the microwave oven is a discrete change as there was no previous invention like this before its introduction to be compared to in the market.
All associated risks involved with this type of change were experienced in the introduction of the microwave oven. As mentioned earlier, when the first microwave ovens were introduced, they were not popular and as such sales were not appealing (Gallawa 2009). The shareholders took a risk and continued the investments into the product. These risks were high and if there the innovation of the microwave oven was to be a failure this could have incurred large losses within the company. There was also a risk involved whether consumers would change their perspective about the use of microwave ovens within their homes.
According to Gallawa (2009), there were many fears and myths about the use of microwave ovens as consumers thought they could make one blind or a person may die from the radiation poisoning. These fears and myths were the sole cause of the unfavorable reaction to the microwave oven in the earlier years. As these myths were tested to be false and fears were being overcome, consumes started to see the benefits of using the microwave oven. Reusch (2008) lists some of these advantages such as saving time in preparing meals, conservation of nutrition values in foods compared to using the stovetop, and it is easy to be cleaned.
Thus, consumers began to purchase the microwave oven as a necessary kitchen appliance in the home. Even thought the stovetop is still the most popular cooking device among Americans, its usage has dropped from 53% in 1985 to 33% in 2009 (Lukovitz, 2009). Having gained a large consumer base over the years, the usage of the microwave oven has had a continuous increasing rate. Many companies have recognized the growing use of the microwave oven and as such they have prepared foods that are fully prepared by them.
These foods range from pre-cooked entrees to organic and natural foods. Some foods may be packaged in a single serving meal pack that is easy to transport and prepare. Most of them also have a high nutritional value that can appeal to many persons whom are concerned about their health whilst eating good tasting and smelling foods. The use of microwave ovens has come a long way throughout its history. Starting off with an unfavorable initial reaction, the microwave oven has gained its reputation and is now a common way of preparing food.
This was mainly due to its time saving feature in which it can cook foods as many people are working longer hours. The reputation gained from the microwave oven has also made it difficult for persons to go back to the original way of cooking and preparing foods. Many people of today’s age would prefer to use the microwave oven over any other cooking appliance. This is one kitchen appliance, which is considered a necessity to many people around the world. In conclusion, the innovation of the microwave oven was a successful invention that changed the way in which we prepared food.