During the 1940s, several major advances in technology were made, such as the invention of the atomic bomb and the Mark 1 computer. However, many household appliances were also invented during this time. Although the original designs were not as efficient as modern appliances, they set the groundwork for later advancements.
The microwave oven was invented by accident when engineer Dr. Percy Lebaron was conducting experiments with magnetrons. When a candy bar in his pocket melted while he was conducting experiments, he realized that magnetrons emitted microwave radiation. The company Dr. Lebaron worked for, Raytheon Corporation, manufactured the first microwave several years later. Originally called a Radarange, it was 6 feet tall and weighed 750 pounds, and it had a power of 1600 watts. The high price of microwaves resulted in this household appliance being a luxury. However, in the 1970, the price of microwaves decreased and they could be found in most households.
Television sets were invented prior to the 1940s, but this decade was a time when major advancements were made to existing models. The most notable invention was that of the color television. In the early 1940s, CBS created a color wheel with sections of red, green and blue that rotated at high speeds in front of cameras. A color wheel was also located in front of the screens of the newly-invented color televisions. This system was effective at producing color and it also improved picture quality. However, the color wheel resulted in low resolution.
The first patent for what would later become the dishwasher was filed in 1850 by Joel Houghton. However, there were several aspects of the dishwasher that were lacking. For example, Houghton's design did not use hot water and it had to be operated by a hand crank. It took until the 1940s for advancements to the dishwasher to be made. For example, the first dishwasher with a drying mechanism was invented in the early 1940s. Also during the 1940s, a top-loading dishwasher was invented. It was a Kenmore appliance that was available for purchase at Sears, and it cost over $200.
In 1941, the first patent for a trash compactor was filed. Created by M.S. Wells, it was a machine that had the capability to crush items as large as oil cans and it also had an attached baler. In the 1970s and 1990s, improvements were made to Wells' design, making the compactor smaller and easier to use. This important appliance invention has been instrumental in reducing landfill waste.
- The Way Kitchens Work: The Science Behind the Microwave, Teflon Pan, Garbage Disposal and More; Ed Sobey
- University of Michigan: The Automatic Dishwasher
- National Academy of Engineering: Household Appliances Timeline
- The Southwest Museum of Engineering, Communications and Computation: Microwave Oven
- Early Television Museum: Early Color Television
- Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images