The military invents a lot of things, and
not all of them are new types of guns. They’re all about making things as efficient
as possible, and every once in a while they come up with a product so good, it ends up
bleeding into civilian life and becomes entwined with our daily lives. As a result, there’s a good chance that
you’ve used many brilliant inventions that you had no idea started out in some top secret
military facility or another. Inventions such as… 10. GPS Remember the awful days of yesteryear when
everyone had to rely on mere maps to find their way from point A to point B? Back then, the process often involved accidental
detours via points C, D and somehow W before you finally grew desperate enough to ask for
directions. GPS changed all of that, and as long as your
equipment holds up, an array of satellites can now guide you from Kansas to Guatemala
without a hitch. Truly, we live in The Future. The US Military recognized the need for easy
global navigation that didn’t involve asking directions from old men leaning on fences
every other mile in 1964. The Cold War was at full swing, and Naval
Research Laboratory scientist Roger Easton started tinkering with a system to figure
out just what kinds of satellites the Soviet Union was flying up there. He initially tinkered with ground-based tracking
stations, but a breakthrough came when he realized putting highly accurate clocks to
multiple tracking satellites would allow them to sync their tracking with each other with
much better accuracy. Over the next decade, he fashioned a system
called “Navigation System Using Satellites and Passive Ranging Techniques,” which already
incorporated all the main features of the Global Positioning System. The Department of Defense approved funding
for Easton’s invention — now called the Navstar Global Positioning System — in 1973,
and it was built bit by bit over the next twenty years. Eventually, the government realized that the
public would benefit from the system as well, and after a trickledown period where watered-down
“selective availability” versions of GPS were available to the public, the Clinton
administration opened the floodgates. Today, the system is freely available, though
it’s still maintained by the military — the annual operating costs of $900 million or
so, paid for by the US Department of Defense and the US Transportation Department. 9. Superglue Superglue is a WWII invention that got its
start with Eastman Kodak scientists as part of their attempts to design gun sights to
the military. Don’t worry, they weren’t trying to panickedly
glue gun parts together. Instead, they found that some of the things
they’d come up with during the project had some pretty interesting properties, and revisited
said substances to create the adhesive. The man who finally put together the recipe
for superglue was named Harry Coover, but he didn’t see his invention make its breakthrough
until the Vietnam War, when undersupplied, desperate field medics got hold of the substance
and used a sprayable version to stop bleeding in chest wounds and other serious injuries. While this was effective, the early versions
of superglue were decidedly not FDA-approved, and could lead to skin irritation and assorted
serious issues when in contact with open wounds. Later versions of the compound were created
to specifically deal with the human body, though as we’re sure you’d agree, they’re
pretty handy fixing other broken stuff as well. 8. Canned food Canned food is a surprisingly old military
invention that dates back to 1795. Napoleon Bonaparte offered a hefty prize for
whoever could figure out how to preserve food efficiently, because it turns out invading
foreign countries was not the greatest way to have said country readily feed the invaders. The prize went unclaimed for fifteen years,
until a confectioner called Nicolas Francois Appert claimed it with his newfangled method
of heating, boiling and sealing food in glass jars. This innovative approach was soon improved
by an Englishman named Peter Durand, who came up with a thick iron food storage can lined
with tin. Ironically, it would take almost 50 more years
before Ezra J. Warner would invent the can opener. The final touches to the canned food technology
we all know and … well, know once again came from the military — this time, the
Natick Soldier Systems Center, a US Army facility that investigates ways to make rations last
long and taste good. Incidentally, the same facility is also behind
the processed cheese that’s used to make Cheetos. 7. Blood transfusions To be perfectly honest, blood transfusions
weren’t technically invented by the military, which has historically been more interested
in removing blood from people than figuring out how to put it back. However, WWI military medicine was definitely
the contributing factor in figuring out how to do it in relatively safe, moderately non-horrifying
ways. Before 1913, the most advanced version of
blood transfusion was to surgically dig up the donor’s and recipient’s veins and
suture them together. It didn’t help that no one had really figured
out how to deal with blood clotting, and the ABO blood grouping was still a fairly new
invention that many in the medical community treated as newfangled nonsense. Between 1913-1915, people started to figure
out anticoagulants, blood bottles and donors, and WWI gave doctors ample opportunities to
try out these new methods and hone them to perfection … after Canada and the US joined
the war. The thing is, most of these advancements had
come from North American researchers, so before they joined the fray with new blood transfusion
tech, the British and French doctors from other countries largely ignored the procedure,
and when they actually tried it with their old methods … well, let’s just say they
were soon ready to adapt the new ones. 6. Ambulances Like canned food, ambulances are a direct
product of Napoleon’s penchant for waging war. French surgeon Baron Dominique Jean Larrey
fought in the majority of campaigns during the Napoleonic Wars, and became convinced
that the rapid treatment of wounded soldiers was best for everyone involved. He sat on his drawing board and developed
what became known as the “flying ambulance”: A nimble, horse-drawn cart that was specially
designed to move quickly and efficiently across the battlefield, picking up the wounded and
rushing them to field hospitals outside the battle area. Baron Larrey’s dedication to the wounded
was especially admirable because many military higher-ups of the era thought that injured
men were an unnecessary waste of supplies. As you can probably expect, he made a lot
of powerful enemies thanks to his pesky humanitarian attitude. Fortunately, Napoleon himself had nothing
but respect for Larrey, and the Emperor’s armies absolutely adored the Baron who fought
so hard to treat them. In fact, Larrey’s strong principles and
insistence that the medics would treat wounded enemies as well once saved his own life: When
Larrey was wounded and captured in the aftermath of the battle of Waterloo, the enemy soldiers
were about to shoot him when the medic who was blindfolding him realized who he was. Larrey was immediately sent to the General
of the Prussian forces, where he found out he had actually saved the General’s son’s
life after an earlier battle. Instead of a swift execution, Baron Larrey
received a dinner and was released back to his own people with some money and an escort. 5. Wrist watches The first wrist watches were initially treated
as a laughable joke item of their day. In 1916, the New York Times led the charge
of sensible, pocket watch-using Americans scoffing at the wacky European dandies who
had started wearing bracelets with clocks on them. Vaudeville artists and early movie actors
utilized wrist watches as comedy props, and the whole thing was treated as a fad. However, when the great war rolled around,
wrist watches soon stopped being a laughing matter. Telephones and signal devices required users
who knew what time it is, and the only practical way a soldier could wear a timepiece that
they could check at a quick glance was … on the wrist. The joke item was suddenly deathly serious,
and European troops were fitting their watches with unbreakable glass and radium displays
for night-time use. The practical benefits of the wrist watch
were now too obvious to ignore, and civilians started to use them as well. 4. The (electric) computer While it’s true that the computer was technically
invented by Charles Babbage, a 19th century mathematician who built a crude mechanical
calculator called the “Difference Engine,” the era of the electric computer didn’t
kick off until 1944, when Great Britain’s codebreakers unleashed the Colossus to crack
Nazi messages during World War II. Instead of the famous Enigma code, the Colossus
focused on the less known but even more important “Fish” transmissions that were based on
electric teleprinter technology. Fish messages were largely reliant on a cipher
machine called “Tunny,” which used binary code in its encryption. Although Alan Turing figured out a method
to crack Tunny’s cipher in 1942, British codebreakers found it too slow to keep up
with the constant tsunami of encrypted messages. All of this changed in 1944, when a Post Office
truck delivered Colossus I to their Bletchley Park headquarters. The giant machine and its eight subsequent
Mark II siblings were the first true electric computers that used a clock pulse to synchronize
processing steps, and proceeded to crack Tunny codes so swiftly and efficiently that they
were able to help provide crucial information for the Allies’ D-Day preparations and subsequent
push toward Berlin. After the war, parts of the Colossus computers
were transferred to the University of Manchester, where they served as a basis for their successor:
“Baby,” the ancestor of modern all-purpose computers. 3. The microwave oven Really? Microwave ovens? What use do the military have for those? Do soldiers carry tiny ones in their backpacks? Wouldn’t they need a pretty long extension
cord? Not quite. Still, the microwave oven definitely wouldn’t
exist if it wasn’t for the military. In 1946, an engineer named Percy Spencer was
developing a new way to mass-produce radar magnetrons. He was busy testing a military-grade magnetron,
when suddenly, he noticed that a peanut cluster bar he had in his pocket had turned unexpectedly
melty because of the microwaves the device emitted. Fascinated by this unexpected development,
Spencer tested the magnetron on an egg, which promptly exploded on his face. After that, he moved on to popcorn kernels,
and ended up inventing microwave popcorn. While Spencer himself wasn’t particularly
concerned about the potential danger microwaves posed on him during his tests, and the very
first commercial microwave oven debuted just one year after the initial discovery, microwaves
were still enough of an unknown commodity for the device to catch on (it didn’t help
that it weighed around 750 pounds and cost $2,000). In the end, it took until 1967 and the emergence
of the compact Radarange oven for the technology to make its commercial breakthrough. 2. The Internet (ARPANET was a military project) Yes, even the wild world wide web you’re
browsing this list on right now is a military invention — or rather, its predecessor ARPANET
is. ARPANET is largely the product of the US defense
department’s well-financed research agency called the Advanced Research Projects Agency
(As in, ARPA — get it?). The ARPANET network was built in 1969 to connect
the mainframes of various universities, defense contractors and government institutions throughout
the country, and its ultimate aim was to “bring computing to front lines.” ARPANET never quite achieved this, because
while it was quite effective, its locations were completely fixed, and the computers required
to operate it were massive. However, the existence of the system left
ARPA scientists plenty of room to tinker, and in 1974 two researchers named Robert Kahn
and Vint Cerf sowed the seeds of internet proper by creating the blueprint of the first
internet protocol. Only two years later, the seemingly impossible
internet started working. Fun fact: ARPA later changed its name to Defense
Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA. Yes, the same DARPA that has been in the focus
of assorted conspiracy theories for, among other things, its involvement in the supposed
weather control program HAARP. 1. Duct tape Duct tape, if anything, seems like a military
invention. It can fix pretty much anything you can name,
and seems custom made for use in the field. However, military scientists had absolutely
nothing to do with its original concept. The idea came in 1943 from an ammunition packer
named Vesta Stoudt, whose two sons were serving in the US Navy and who was quite keen on keeping
them alive. When she noticed that the ammo packages were
sealed with thin paper tape and opened with a tab that frequently tore off, which left
soldiers scrambling to open the packages, potentially at the cost of their lives. Stoudt brought her concerns to her superiors
and offered a solution — a strong, cloth-based waterproof tape that would efficiently seal
the boxes shut — but they weren’t listening to her. So she took matters into her own hands, and
wrote a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt himself. In her letter, she described the issue and
offered her tape idea as the solution, complete with diagrams. Roosevelt was so impressed with Stoudt that
he immediately passed the letter on to the War Production Board, and soon, Stoudt was
showered with letters from political and military big shots who kept her in the loop about the
developments and asked her to send them any other ideas she might have in the future. The tape was approved for production with
“exceptional merit,” and the military immediately fell in love with it. They dubbed the new invention “the 100-mile-per-hour
tape,” and use it to this day to fix everything from boots to Jeeps. It’s probably fair to say that the public
quite likes the tape, as well.

10 Incredible Military Inventions
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