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93/245/1 Microwave oven, ME710, metal/glass/plastic, General Electric/Appearance Engineering/Rank Major Appliances Ltd, Blacktown, New South Wales, Australia, 1984-1985. Click to enlarge.

General Electric domestic microwave oven, 1984

Made 1984-1985
The microwave oven, a spin-off from radar research in the Second World War, was the first new domestic cooking technology since the radiant electric ranges of the 1910s. It cooks food more quickly than a conventional electric oven and uses less energy, because microwaves heat food directly; the oven and the air inside it do not need to be kept at a high temperature during cooking. Australians began buying imported 'microwaves' (as they soon became known colloquially) in the 1970s, and this oven represents a short-lived attempt at local manufacture in 1984/5.

In 1975, fewer than 30,000 microwave ovens were sold in Australia. Many people were suspicious of microwave cooking, both because of the possible danger of radiation leakage and because microwaved food did not brown. By the mid 1980s Australian legislation had minimised the risk of leakage, and special browning utensils and methods had been developed. Distributors offered free microwave cooking classes to purchasers, and the convenience and speed of microwave cooking suited changing lifestyles. In 1985 Australians bought more than 550,000 microwave ovens.

Compared to most countries, Australia now has very high ownership of microwave ovens. They are frequently used for defrosting and re-heating food, including packaged microwaveable dinners, but are less often used to cook meals.

When it comes to saving energy, the picture is complex. Compared to cooking on a gas burner, there are many energy losses before microwaves reach the food: coal-fired electricity generation is only about 30% efficient; there are further losses in power lines; and the magnetron in the oven is only 50% to 75% efficient. Compared to defrosting food slowly in a refrigerator, using a microwave oven for this purpose wastes energy. On the up side, microwave cooking compares well to use of a conventional electric oven, and cleaning up afterwards uses less hot water than for most other forms of cooking.

Debbie Rudder, Curator, 2012.


Object No.


Object Statement

Microwave oven, ME710, metal/glass/plastic, General Electric/Appearance Engineering/Rank Major Appliances Ltd, Blacktown, New South Wales, Australia, 1984-1985

Physical Description

Microwave oven, ME710, metal/glass/plastic, General Electric/Appearance Engineering/Rank Major Appliances Ltd, Blacktown, NSW, Australia, 1984-1985.

The oven consists of a textured steel insulated rectangular box, painted cream, with a door hinged at front left and an electronic keypad at front right. The door has a blackened glass insert in the centre, a blackened glass fascia, and a handle on the right. The keypad has a clock, timer, numerous labelled keys, and a guide to help the user select settings for cooking different foods.

The oven operates at a maximum of 650 watts. It has no turntable, but microwaves, generated by a magnetron, are directed at the food from above and reflected at it from a pyroceramic shelf below to cook it evenly.


On lower section of door: 'GENERAL ELECTRIC' and the GE logo. On rear: 'Made in Australia / By Rank Appliances / Model No 710'.



320 mm


540 mm


370 mm





The oven was designed by John Barry Hughes in conjunction with Ralph Lee of Appearance Engineering. It was made by Rank Major Appliances Pty Ltd at Blacktown, New South Wales, Australia.

The GE ME710 was the first microwave oven made in Australia. Production began in 1984, but it ceased in 1985 as it could not compete with imports. It received an Australian Design Award in 1985.



The oven was used by staff of the Industrial Design Council of Australia at its Burwood and North Sydney offices between 1984 and 1993.


Credit Line

Gift of Industrial Design Council of Australia, 1993

Acquisition Date

6 July 1993

Cite this Object


General Electric domestic microwave oven, 1984 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 28 May 2020, <>


{{cite web |url= |title=General Electric domestic microwave oven, 1984 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=28 May 2020 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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