On a day like any other, Percy Spencer sat on a bench during his lunch break feeding the squirrels pieces of his peanut candy bar. They were well accustomed to him and looked forward to his lunch breaks, and he likewise looked forward to seeing them. It had been his daily routine for years.
Percy was an engineer at the Raytheon Manufacturing Company. In 1945 his team was tasked with improving radar technology by studying high-powered vacuum tubes called megnatrons. The next morning, while Percy was working with microwave-emitting megnatrons, he noticed the most curious thing; the peanut bar he was saving in his back pocket for the squirrels had begun to melt all the way through, which is of course impossible at room temperature and could not have been due to simple surface heat.
Realizing this phenomenon must be linked to the microwaves emitted by the megnatrons, Spencer immediately found some popcorn to test and watched in excitement as the flameless microwaves popped the kernels like crazy. The next day, he brought in an egg. It cooked the same way, with the added bonus of exploding in a skeptical coworker’s face.
Having discovered that microwaves alone could heat food, Spencer and the Raytheon Company patented the technology and the “RadaRange” was born. The original RadaRange was almost six feet tall, weighed 750 lbs and cooked food at a much faster rate than the modern microwave we know today. While military and industrial clients brought in some profits, the original RadaRange was mostly a commercial failure due to its massive size and steep price of $5000. However, with steady improvements in size, power usage, and affordability, the microwave oven soon took over household kitchens throughout the world.
Whether the squirrels preferred their peanuts microwaved or natural remains unclear.