For all of the fantastical and technologically advanced gadgets that toymakers have concocted over the centuries, only a few really make much of an impression. It's not always the fanciest or most expensive toys that mean the most to kids.
Sometimes, all you need is a pint-size oven with a legendary name: Easy-Bake Oven. This oven is the kind of toy that made millions for manufacturers and at the same time imprinted itself into the minds of children all around the world.
The Easy-Bake oven is no fad. It's been around for more than half a century in all sorts of incarnations and colors, and it seems to hold a nearly universal appeal for girls and boys. Kids love whisking together the simple recipes, plopping them into a pan and then seeing the cooked results a few minutes later. Sometimes those little chefs even eat the results in spite of the famously dubious edibility of these goodies.
For kids, the oven is a fascinating and empowering device. Not only can they cook just like their parents, but they're rewarded with tangible, edible fruits of their labor. And although the oven is probably most often linked to baked goods such as cupcakes or cookies, it makes all sorts of other treats, too, including pizza, candy, peanut brittle and fudge.
The toy was first sold by Kenner Products (of "Star Wars" action-figure fame), and toy company Hasbro has been making the oven since the early 1990s. By 2013, people had snapped up more than 30 million Easy-Bake ovens. To date, more than 150 million little packets of powdered food have been sold, too.
That is a huge number of little tiny meals. That's a lot of messy little fingers. And it all started when a light bulb popped on, figuratively and literally, back in the early 1960s.