18 March 2010

The 1980s Microwave Oven Revolution

From the Brian Mills Spring/Summer 1983 mail order catalogue - priced from just under £200 to just under £450, microwave ovens were not cheap by early 1980s standards. "High speed cooking" proclaims Brian Mills. It really did seem a tremendous novelty back in those days.

"Prepare food in a matter of minutes" - this Brian Mills Spring/Summer 1983 mail order catalogue page points out the benefits of the Phillips compact microwave oven.

Arriving in a kitchen near you in the 1980s would probably have been a microwave oven. These wonderful contraptions had actually existed since the 1960s, but it was all a matter of cost, often prohibitive with new technological arrivals. So, microwave ovens remained the preserve of those with dosh-to-spare until the 1980s. I never even saw one!

But then, in the early 1980s, ping!, a cafe in my local city centre suddenly installed a microwave. Panic! "Microwaves use radiation! They'll kill you!" some of us heathens cried.

And many of us believed it.

In the mid-'80s, microwave ovens were becoming cheap enough and common enough for my mother to actually consider buying one from a mail order catalogue. I was fascinated to see an episode of failed mid-'80s soap Albion Market the other day, featuring two of the female characters discussing the miracle of microwaves.

I first encountered one (in my workplace) in 1987 and was still a little suspicious of them. Did they leak? Did they ruin your fertility? Did they slowly cook you from inside? What a twit!

By the end of the decade, I was growing used to microwave ovens and my dear old mum had one installed at home and absolutely swore by it!
Kill you? Nah, they helped you get dinner more quickly so you didn't have to miss that new Aussie soap, Home And Away...
Mind you, some thought that was a fate worse than death...

The guests are clearly absolutely delighted at the wondrously quick jacket potatoes in this ad from Cosmopolitan magazine, July 1983. The '80s went a bundle on fancy baked spuds. See here for some F-Plan Diet recipes.

Una Stubbs gets very excited about the miracle of microwaves in this 1985 TV ad for the Toshiba Deltawave.


Anonymous said...

My Sharps Microwave was purchased as a Christmas present for me in 1984 - not my choice of present - I was horrified at the price at the time and did not really want one. I have rarely used it for actual cooking - some sponges more like puddings - gravy custard - the most use has been for warming up dinner for the late arrivals, everyday. It finally blew up yesterday RIP 06/11/11

Drew said...

Believe it or not, I'm just thinking about buying my very first microwave!

Anonymous said...

I have a toshiba 1983 model. Still used every day.happy 30th birthday to it!

Mobius Loops said...

I have a 1985 Saisho from Curry's - still in regualr use, still works fine. Only some of my hifi has lasted longer/still been relevant. :)

anamyd said...

haha yes I've been "dailying" a free 80s Swan since 2017, still works in 2020. It seems to be a lower wattage one, around 500-600w. You get used to how much to increase the cooking time by from the times for 800-850w given on food packaging.

Tuttiefruity said...

I bought a Magic Chef in 1989 and it is still used several times daily.

Anonymous said...

What wattage is this microwave? I found an eighties cookbook but it doesn’t say what wattage for the recipes. Would love to use the recipes! Thanks!

80s Actual said...

So sorry, we have no idea!