Alexis Madrigal examines how the modern pizza box, a thing of beauty when you consider it, came into being.
Here’s the technology problem: you’ve got a warm, moisture-emitting object that also contains relatively dry components that you need to get from Point A to Point B with their form, heat, and chemical composition intact. Oh, and the top of the object is covered with a sticky, viscous substance. And you need to be able to do it by the millions, so the solution has to be cheap and mass producible.
The solution to this problem is the modern corrugated pizza box, which helps get a big chunk of the three billion pizzas sold each year in the United States to happy customers.
Yes, the box in which your pizza comes in is a marvel of minor but well-formed proportions. The constraints of the problem are clear. Take the sogginess problem. If you completely seal up this object, the moisture will make its drier parts soggy. If you vent it too much, you’ll lose the heat.