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Panasonic Sky-Lite Microwave Oven
The microwave oven has become ubiquitous. So we are all familiar with its form factor. A rectangle with a door and a control panel. It has been the same for decades with very little variation. One notable one was released in 1975, the Panasonic Sky-Lite Microwave Oven (NE-5100).
The Sky-Lite took things in a new direction by creating an over with a lower profile, emphasizing the horizontal as opposed to the vertical. Which seems a little odd now, but made more sense in 1975. At this point, before we planned around microwave height many houses had counter space that couldn’t accommodate the very large standard microwaves being sold. At 20 inches (50.8 cm) wide x 21 inches (53.3 cm) deep x 9 inches (22.8 cm) high it was something that could work in most spaces. It is a fairly compact footprint, yet the cooking compartment was large enough to accommodate an entire dinner plate.
At the time, people also had an interest in using microwaves like they might use a blender. Meaning they would take it out for cooking purposes and then put it back in storage when not in use. Although at 50 pounds, I am not sure I would want to lug it around too often.
It is hard to believe that this size and weight could be considered “portable,” but it was at the time as you will see in most store advertisements for the Sky-Lite. Just listen to this pitch.
Panasonic calls it the Sky-Lite. We call it a beauty. The wrap-around window lets you watch what’s cooking from the front and top. Its compact, light-weight design makes it easy to move around, and use anywhere. Yet it’s roomy enough for an 8-lb roast or a 3-qt casserole. Ald like other Panasonic microwave ovens, it’s fast, dependable, and energy-saving. Come ‘n see for you yourself.
Pretty exciting. But even when the ads were not as wordy, they still tended to stress the portability of the Sky-Lite.
These ovens were not cheap. In 1975, the Panasonic Sky-Lite Microwave Oven would cost around $250. That would be the equivalent of $1200 today.
While they would linger for a few years, sales of the Sky-Lite appeared to peak in 1976. By 1978, they were already being heavily discounted and while they could still be found at the end of the decade, the form-factor had proven itself a failure.
A few photos of the Sky-Lite have been posted online and you will find them on eBay from time to time. Only one video exists of this oven in action. So if you were hoping to see a 40 year old microwave cook up a hdog, you are in for a real treat.
The Panasonic Sky-Lite Microwave Oven was an interesting idea. It attempted to make microwaves portable and its large viewable window was a perk that gave you a better view of the food you were cooking. Unfortunately portability was not something people really would come to expect from microwaves and they never build a next generation Sky-Lite oven.
Perhaps if they did we would have seen a smaller, lighter oven that maintained or even grew the cooking compartment? We will never know. One thing is for certain, these ovens were well-made. People are still selling and using them today and their fandom, while small is rabid. So if you want an interesting cooking instrument and you have the counter space, why not get your own.