How a company named Swanson changed dinner time to tube time

By EW Staff
Updated February 19, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

In an insidious plot worthy of The X-Files, a company called Swanson single-handedly destroyed an archaic family ritual known as Dinner Table Conversation. Back before the invention of television, families would gather around a table at mealtime (or so we’re told) and talk. But in 1954, three years after launching a line of frozen potpies, Swanson developed the TV dinner; now families could gather around their living-room sets indefinitely, without interrupting their viewing pleasure for something as silly as sustenance. Instant food, instant success: Swanson sold 8 million dinners the first year, 25 million the next. An original TV-dinner tray — abandoned because of microwave incompatibility — now sits in the Smithsonian.