TV Dinner inventor Gerry Thomas, July 18 Gerry Thomas, who changed the way Americans eat -- for better or worse -- with his invention of the TV Dinner, has died at age 83 at a Phoenix hospice on Monday, July 18, 2005, after a bout with cancer. Thomas was a salesman for Omaha, Neb.-based C.A. Swanson & Sons in 1954 when he got the idea of packaging frozen meals in a disposable aluminum-foil tray, divided into compartments to keep the foods from mixing. He also gave the product its singular name. The first Swanson TV Dinner -- turkey with cornbread dressing and gravy, sweet potatoes and buttered peas -- sold for about $1 and could be cooked in 25 minutes at 425 degrees. Ten million sold in the first year. The TV Dinner fit in with societal changes of the time. More women were entering the work force and did not have the time to spend all day preparing dinner. It also introduced the notion of "modular" eating: If there were only two people at home, you put only two dinners in the oven. The invention got Thomas a bump in pay to $300 a month and a $1,000 bonus. Thomas relished the credit he got for his invention, his wife Susan said, but he wouldn't eat them. "He was gourmet cook," she said. "He never ate the TV Dinners."
AP/ Sue Schneider
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