Jason and the Argos Gnomes (Part Eighteen): The Sharp R5541 Microwave Oven

‘Ping’ went the steam from my tart

Besides the home computer, there was one other device that any middle class household couldn’t afford to be without. It not only revolutionised the way we made cakes, cooked meat and fish. For many, the sole source of a rushed household’s tea or supper.

A lot of us use the said product for reheating ready meals. Not, in the words of a Marshall Cavendish part-work available at the time, ‘baking cakies’. Today, almost 30 years on, they are almost everywhere. I am referring to the microwave oven. For this entry in particular, it is…

The Sharp R5541 Carousel Microwave Oven

Besides its electronic products, Sharp was known to many as Manchester United’s sponsors. Also by means of its one time Thorp Road plant on Newton Heath, close to the former home of Newton Heath (Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway) Football Club, its predecessors.

The Sharp R5541 Carousel was the company’s entry level microwave oven in the Argos catalogue. What set it apart from its rival companies’ offerings was a carousel at the bottom – a big deal then, now ubiquitous in today’s models. Its output wattage was 500 watt and it had two power settings. Standard for the time was its analogue controls: LED display models would feature slightly later.

Back in 1985, 500 watts would be about par for that era. 650 watts would be common in the late-1980s with 500W models being at the lower end of the market. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, microwave ovens would become more affordable for working class households. Today, many households would be lost without one, which is also to do with the popularity of ready meals. (But that’s another story).

The Sharp Corporation was formed in 1912, with its first product being a mechanical pencil. It took its name from the product known as the Ever-Sharp mechanical pencil. 1964 saw the company develop and manufacture the world’s first transistor based calculator. By the 1970s, home electronics became its forte.

  • Argos Catalogue edition: Spring/Summer 1985;
  • Page and item numbers: page 164, item 3;
  • 1985 Prices: £144.95;
  • 2014 Prices: £427.31.

S.V., 18 December 2014.

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