Trusting Internet Research:The Bees in my Bonnet

I write fiction built on the past.

compliment of wikipedia

compliment of wikipedia

In 1947, Raytheon built the “Radarange”, the first commercially available microwave oven, It was almost 1.8 metres (5 ft 11 in) tall, weighed 340 kilograms (750 lb) and cost about US$5,000 ($52,273 in today’s dollars) each.

An early commercial model introduced in 1954 consumed 1.6 kilowatts and sold for US$2,000 to US$3,000. In the 1960s, Litton bought Studebaker‘s Franklin Manufacturing assets, which had been manufacturing magnetrons and building and selling microwave ovens similar to the Radarange. Litton then developed a new configuration of the microwave: the short, wide shape that is now common. Sales volume of 40,000 units for the U.S. industry in 1970 grew to one million by

tabletop model

tabletop model


Formerly found only in large industrial applications, microwave ovens increasingly became a standard fixture of residential kitchens. By 1986, roughly 25% of households in the U.S. owned a microwave oven, up from only about 1% in 1971. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that over 90% of American households owned a microwave oven in 1997.

Also, Liven’s design for the domestic dishwasher did not become a commercial success, and dishwashers were only successfully sold as domestic utilities in the postwar boom of the 1950s, albeit only to the wealthy.

I HATE WHEN THIS HAPPENS!  This site is colorful and appears to offer much accurate information to inform us all of eras of the past.  Go to this site to discover erroneous statements:

“The household also became much more modern. Many appliances that we take for granted now were invented or perfected in the 1950s. Truly it was the decade of the modern American family, who finally had enough money to buy these new conveniences. The average fifties household had a television, a microwave, a dishwasher, electric appliances and much more.”

Furthermore, as a writer of historical fiction, I wrote a comment suggesting they remove the microwave and dishwasher from the sentence explaining why. That moderated comment was promptly deleted. In fact, the only comments you will see on this site are those praising the site for what a fine job they are doing.

Then, I wrote a comment indicating that inaccurate web sites were why the internet could not be trusted as a source for accurate information. This was promptly removed, as well.

What would it take for them to remove microwaves and dishwashers from the average 50s household affordable appliances? Delete two words, use other examples.

That tells me that they know they are wrong and don’t care.

The site is awesome in many ways, but it is filled with inaccuracies.  You cannot trust the internet. You must double; triple check internet sources or your work is not going to be accurate or believable. With the era I write in, much of my long term memory is very good. I still recall my phone number from 1969. But sometimes I need a quick reference for fashion, toys, music, cars.

Some sites don’t care, as long as they feel you are being somewhat entertained.

Be careful! You could contribute the Cadillac to Henry Ford if you are not cautious. I have seen it done.

I read Sylvia Plath’s “Bell Jar” was published posthumously and wrote that in my book. I later discovered it was not. It was awarded the Pulitzer posthumously. The novel was, in fact, published under a pseudonym three weeks before her death.

One error like that and you can lose your credibility. I had to revise that with my book and still need to update in my paperback version. Why?

With much writing, “The Devil is in the Details!”

You owe it to your readers to be accurate. It would be most ridiculous to read about a housewife popping TV dinners into the microwave in the 1950s. They were baked in the oven, also served in aluminum trays back then BTW, and coffee was perked on the stove top. A word spellchecker doesn’t like.

50 thoughts on “Trusting Internet Research:The Bees in my Bonnet

          • How often are they right? If they have more true than false info then you can use them as a starting point. As I said, I double check my facts even if it’s from a trusted source. It’s the biggest ‘problem’ with Internet research because anybody can post anything.

            • Hard to say what they have is right. There are toys….supposedly from the fifties, and fashions, hairstyles, cars, music, actors, actresses. They list other eras also….who is to say now what is accurate?

                • I read an historical fiction based in Texas. The author attributed the Cadillac to Henry Ford. They tore her up in reviews.

                  Even with Wikipedia, I try to find a second source. If I find two, I usually say…okay this is most likely legit, but that did not happen with Sylvia Plath’s novel….many sites said her book was published posthumously. It was not until I read the Look Inside on a book published by her niece that I learned otherwise and that was AFTER my book was published…so I had to change that. I think her niece would know more of the truth. Did some double checks and found it was indeed published under a pseudonym.

                    • Sad, but a lot of people write really inaccurate historical fiction and it does give us writers a bad name, especially when you see 1700s or 1800s language with a lot of words like fuck, or porn….words they just didn’t use back then. Even words as simple as motor car and automoibile used in the 50s-60s, flivvers and breezers used in the 20s-30s, now just understood to be cars.

                    • You are correct. I stand sort of corrected. According to a few sources the work fuck was used in literature as early as 1475 to indicate sexual intercourse. A poem translated to English from Latin which reads. “They are not in heaven because they fuck wives of Ely”. Although it wasn’t a common term until 1960s. Its common usage is believed to come from the German word fuk meaning “to strike”…not from the urban legend accronym of For Use of Carnal Knowledge. Still, not being in common use in the 1700s or 1800s, it looks odd in script and seems out of place.

                    • Apparently “to strike” was then taken literally as to strike each other during intercourse…in German, and it evolved as a sexual term in English from there….they are saying in the 1400-1500s. I am fascinated by etymology, so, of course, had to spend a half day researching the word in hopes that I never misuse it.

    • Even if they edited out my comment…that would have been fine with me…but to refuse to correct something that blatantly wrong!

      Only 1% had microwave ovens in 1971, what percent do you think had them in the fifties? When the tabletop model wasn’t even created until the 60s, and then only for the wealthy.

        • I know my grandmother died in 1985 and my older sister got everything new for her kitchen immediately after it became affordable. I recall my grandmother being astounded that a microwave could thaw hamburger in 5 minutes without cooking it. She died shortly after that.

  1. What a disappointment some sites won’t fess up and make corrections as needed. Makes me shake my head. Thanks for the heads up. Just because something sounds good and appears to fit, doesn’t make it so. More work double and triple-checking. 😀

  2. Well said. I get infuriated by these inaccuracies and as for the website deleting your comments, my words are unprintable. Useful though it is, the internet is also dangerous for spewing out lies and inaccuracies. Beware, beware!

  3. When I get my time machine up-and-running, I’m going to start a secret society that rounds up people like these and deposits them back in the time period in question so they can see firsthand the error of their ways. 🙂

  4. Your post made me smile! My Grandma always used to call her microwave a “RadarRange”. This was back in the early 70’s, but she continued to refer to her microwave by that name until she passed away. She would always have her famous chicken wings or some Polish food ready to heat up.

  5. People will believe all sorts of false or misleading things–look at all the things that people blindly re-post on Facebook without checking them first. It’s awful though that a site that is supposed to be a source of information about a particular era would continue to post information they know is false. I also wonder what the person means by the “average” 50s household. I imagine there were many households that did not have TVs then, and even many in rural areas who had few electric appliances at all. I’m glad you are so thorough on fact checking, Susan. I hate reading a historical novel and coming across things that are wrong or that just don’t fit in the time period. (Setting a play written in an earlier period in a modern setting is different–for example, the recent “Much Ado About Nothing.”)

    It is interesting how language changes. I just learned that the word “effeminate” used to refer to a ladies’ man. I didn’t know the origins of “fuck,” but you can find a lot of “earthy” language in early American court records.

    • LOL….Sometimes I forget other people read comments. I just get into a dialog and forget that I am in public.

      I was really upset that they would not change it. I know my grandmother, who lived in a rural area, did not have a refrigerator or an indoor bathroom until the late sixties. I was born in 60 and recall the outhouse AND the ice box. She had an old wringer washer that she pulled out once a month. Her phone was a party line with her three sister and another lady. Cities may have been different. My Grandma in town had a party line for a short while and then a private line. Grandmother was lucky to have a TV in those early days of the sixties. Her older sister gave her one when she got a new one.

      I have read some early court records and many old Wills. (They can be hilarious.)

  6. Historical fiction is at once immersive and informative. Many people like to feel like they’re going someplace or someTIME else when reading. Bless you for taking on such a challenging genre and getting the details right. 🙂

    • Thank you. I am not currently writing so far back in history that I share the same fears that someone who, for example, writes in 1500s-1800s, but I am a stickler for accuracy.

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