Barry Gordemer

Just like comedian Rodney Dangerfield, the microwave oven often gets no respect. Every kitchen has one, but no self-respecting cook would admit to using it for anything more than just heating up last night's pasta. But it's hard to deny the influence the food-nuker has had on American life, and this year marks 50 years since its arrival.

The first countertop microwave was the Amana Radarange, which debuted in 1967 and sold for $495. It's the appliance that made zapping your food as routine as brushing your teeth.

First, it was The Supremes, then The Beatles, then The Police. Now there is news that another enduring band is breaking up: Chuck E. Cheese's The Pizza Time Players.

Chuck E. Cheese — a large rat puppet with a New York accent — along with his fellow animatronic pals sing and shake their mechanical limbs to cover tunes in about 500 pizza restaurants nationwide.