Barry Gordemer

Just like comedian Rodney Dangerfield, the microwave oven often gets no respect. Every kitchen has one, but no self-respecting cook would admit to using it for anything more than just heating up last night's pasta. But it's hard to deny the influence the food-nuker has had on American life, and this year marks 50 years since its arrival.

The first countertop microwave was the Amana Radarange, which debuted in 1967 and sold for $495. It's the appliance that made zapping your food as routine as brushing your teeth.