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The Easy-Bake Oven is a working toy oven introduced by Kenner in 1963, and currently manufactured by Hasbro. The original toy used an ordinary incandescent light bulb as a heat source; current versions use a true heating element. By 1997, more than 16 million Easy-Bake Ovens (in 11 models) had been sold.
The oven comes with packets of cake mix and small round pans. (Additional mixes can be purchased separately.) After water is added to the mix in the pan, it is pushed into the oven through a slot. After cooking, the cake is pushed out through a slot in the other end.
The Easy-Bake Oven was introduced in 1963 by Kenner Products, a Cincinnati, Ohio based toy company. The original Kenner Easy-Bake Oven was heated by two 100 watt incandescent lightbulbs, came in a pale yellow or turquoise, and was designed to resemble a conventional oven. The design changed many times over the years. A more recent model resembles a microwave oven.
The Easy-Bake Oven was invented by Ronald Howes, a prolific toy inventor known for working with Kenner Products. He said he was inspired to make the oven after hearing Kenner salesman report how chestnuts were roasted by street vendors in New York City. In addition to his creation of the Easy-Bake Oven, Howes also was involved in the creation of or refinement to a number of other Kenner Toy products, including Spirograph, Give-a-Show Projector, and Close-and-Play Record Player.
After Kenner became a division of Hasbro, Hasbro continued to produce the oven. The Easy-Bake Oven and Snack Center was introduced in 1993.
A decade after the Easy-Bake Oven and Snack Center was introduced, the Real Meal Oven was released. This oven was different from the others as it could cook larger portions and could cook two with two pans at the same time. It won the 2003 Best Toy Parenting magazine Toy of the Year Award. The neutral colors were more accepted across gender lines, and were favoured by parents, particularly in the midst of queries and complaints over versions not being offered for male children. The pans were larger, and it could bake both desserts and meals. Also, this model featured a heating element and did not require a light bulb.
In 2006, a different version of the Easy-Bake was released, featuring a stove-top warmer, and a heating element. But like Hasbro's first version, it had smaller pans, and it could only bake one pan at a time.
The new front-loading Hasbro design, a substantial departure from the traditional push-through arrangement, was apparently ill-conceived, as all (approx. 985,000) such units were recalled over safety concerns and reported injuries.
In 2011, the last version which used a 100 Watt incandescent light bulb was replaced by a new version with a dedicated heating element, titled EASY-BAKE Ultimate Oven. The replacement was due to a greener lighting policy by the US Federal Government, which would eliminate incandescent light bulbs that put out sufficient heat to bake goods inside the Easy-Bake Oven. This rendered all models that used a light bulb as the heating element obsolete, without being able to replace the part once the existing bulbs burned out. However, some critics of the redesign indicated that halogen light bulbs emitted sufficient heat to replace incandescent bulbs.
In 2012, Hasbro announced the premiere of a version of the Easy-Bake Oven in black and silver after meeting with McKenna Pope, a girl from New Jersey, who had started a Change.org petition asking the toy maker to offer the product in gender-neutral packaging. The prototype Easy-Bake Oven was also made available in blue. The redesigned product was set to be unveiled in 2013 New York Toy Fair in February.
After a release of a new model in May 2006, Hasbro received reports of 29 children getting their hands or fingers caught in the front-loading door, including 5 reports of burns. In February 2007, Hasbro and the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued a voluntary recall of the oven and advised parents to stop using the oven with children under the age of eight and contact the company for a free retrofit kit. The kit was approved by the CPSC and consisted of a plastic grate that fit over the existing oven door. The grate allowed the oven to function as designed but provided an additional barrier to keep small fingers out.
Despite the retrofit program, the problems persisted. According to data from the CPSC, an additional 249 reported incidents included 77 burns, 16 of which were second- or third-degree in nature. In July 2007, Hasbro re-issued its voluntary recall of the Easy-Bake after learning that part of a five-year-old girl's finger had to be amputated because of a severe burn. The recall affected 985,000 of the ovens sold between May 2006 and July 2007. Ovens sold prior to May 2006 were not part of the recall, leaving more than 25 million side-entry/light bulb models in circulation unaffected.
|Wikinews has related news: Inventor Ronald Howes dies at age 83|