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This Week in Tech History: Birth of the Microwave Oven

The first transcontinental telegraph line, the birth of incandescent lighting and the consumer microwave oven is unveiled… It all happened This Week in Tech History.

This week in 1861 – The First Transcontinental Telegraph line across the United States was completed, spelling the end for the 18-month-old Pony Express, which ceased operations just two days later. The remaining assets of the Pony Express were sold to Wells Fargo for 1.5 million dollars.

1879 – After 14 months of experimenting in Menlo Park, NJ, Thomas Alva Edison succeeded in producing a working prototype of the electric, incandescent lamp, using a filament of carbonized thread. It lasted for thirteen and a half hours before burning out.

1946 – A camera on board a V-2 rocket which was launched from the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, took the first photograph of earth from outer space. The German V2 rocket had been captured by the Americans at the end of World War II. The explosive warhead was removed and replaced with a package of scientific instruments. These included a 35mm motion-picture camera set to snap one picture every second and a half.

And this week in 1955 – The microwave oven was introduced in Mansfield, Ohio at the corporate headquarters of the Tappan Company. The new cooking device had a price tag of about $1,300, which would translate to over $11,000 today. No wonder they only manufactured 34 units that first year. The invention of the microwave oven, incidentally, was an accident. In the 1940’s, Percy Spencer was building magnetrons for use in radar sets. He had a chocolate bar in his pocket when he came too close to a running magnetron tube and the candy began to melt.

Written by Chris Graveline

Chris has covered consumer technology for over 20 years. He is the host of This Week in Tech History as well as a regular co-host on "Into Tomorrow with Dave Graveline" and our Technical Director.

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