Born in 1894 in the small town of Howland, Maine, Percy Spencer was orphaned at an early age. After his father died and his mother abandoned him, Spencer was raised by a poor aunt and uncle. Unable to complete elementary school, he joined a mill as an apprentice at the age of 12, and later became a self-taught electrician. In 1912, Spencer joined the U.S. Navy, where he was trained as a radio operator. To make up for his lack of education, he read math and science textbooks while standing watch.
In the late 1920s, Spencer joined the growing Raytheon company in Massachusetts, where he soon became an expert on vacuum tubes, a key component of early radios. During WWII, the company’s focus switched to another kind of radio: radar. Raytheon won a government contract to produce magnetrons—high-powered vacuum tubes that generate microwaves for radar, and Spencer increased production from 17 a day to over 2,600 by the end of the war. But it was after the war that he had his eureka moment. One day while standing next to a magnetron, Spencer had a strange feeling, and noticed that the candy bar in his pocket was melting. He quickly sent for a bag of popcorn, which began popping away when placed in front of the magnetron. The microwave oven was born.
The first commercial model—the Radar Range—was the size of a refrigerator and cost $5,000. No wonder it was used mostly in restaurants. When smaller, cheaper home models were introduced in the 1960s, the market for these fast cooking ovens took off. Today, microwave ovens can be found in over 90% of American homes.
orphan (v.) 使成為孤兒
elementary (a.) 基本的，初級的，基礎的，elementary school 即「小學」
self-taught (a.) 自學的
electrician (n.) 電工
make up for (phr.) 彌補，補償
watch (n.) 守衛，看守，stand watch即「站崗」
generate (v.) 產生（光、熱、電能等）
take off (phr.) 起飛，蔚為風潮，大受歡迎