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Wow! These 5 Everyday Things Were Invented by the Military

Do you know of any military inventions?

When you hear the words “military inventions”, some of the things that come to mind may be explosives, supersonic fighter jets, gigantic warships, and battle tanks. But some of the most important military inventions are much less flashy but just as significant—things that we use in our daily lives in the civilian world.

Our militaries have one pivotal duty: to keep us safe from any threat. Through the years, many inventors from NATO countries have created new tools and technologies that contribute to that ultimate goal.

Military innovation in technology and science has helped to create some of the most essential and iconic items in our homes, offices, and streets. Here are seven of the most interesting military inventions that are now common in day-to-day life!

military inventions
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1. The Internet

No. 1 on our list of military inventions is something we use every day, and you also do it right now as you’re reading this article: the Internet.

The Internet, as we know it nowadays, started its life in 1969. It had a different name, though: the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (or ARPANET). Created by experts working for the US Department of Defense, the Internet was initially meant to link government agencies, defense contractors, and universities throughout the US, enabling shared computing power and the exchange of information.

In the Cold War context, it was essential to build a computational and information-sharing system without a central command hub that could turn into a juicy target for adversaries. The very name ‘Internet’ comes from its spread-out structure: multiple interlinked computers (networks) connected together to create larger clusters (internetworks).

In 1969, scientists were able to send the first message via ARPANET from a computer at the University of California in Los Angeles to Stanford University outside of San Francisco. Four years later, ARPANET was connected to University College London in the UK and the Royal Radar Establishment in Norway. This was also when the term ‘Internet’ became a thing.

After the rise of the World Wide Web in 1991, the Internet became more and more accessible to the general public. That’s how the following years saw the beginning of e-commerce, the development of more and more websites, and the rise of social media. By the 2020s, over half of the global population will be connected to the Internet.

That’s definitely one of the greatest military inventions ever made!

2. GPS satellite navigation

No. 2 on our list of the best military inventions is the GPS. Now, be honest—when was the last time you went on a trip without using your smartphone to find your way? Nowadays, we can do that thanks to the global navigation satellite system (GNNS), which helps us get from one place to another.

The system—called NAVSTAR—uses a constellation of satellites that was first built by the US Department of Defense in the 1970s, though it became fully operational in 1993. At the time, there were 24 satellites orbiting the Earth at about 19,300 km.

Similar to other military inventions, the NAVSTAR system was initially marketed to the US military and certain allies. However, in 1983, the US government agreed to make GPS freely available to the entire world after a tragic air incident.

While flying, a Korean commercial airliner drifted from its planned route into prohibited Soviet airspace and got shot down by a Soviet fighter jet. Unfortunately, everyone on board was killed. The main idea is that the incident could have been avoided if there were more accurate navigation tools.

Other countries have also developed their own systems and launched satellites, including China’s BeiDou, the European Union’s Galileo, and Russia’s GLOSNASS.

military inventions
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3. Microwave ovens

Next on our list of military inventions is the microwave oven. Fun fact: microwave cooking was accidentally discovered by scientists during the course of a completely unrelated project just after the Second World War.

Radar technology rose in popularity throughout the war, and it kept being crucial in the emerging Cold War, when NATO radar installations scanned the skies without a break for missile threats or planes from the Soviet Union.

In 1946, Percy Spencer, an American physicist, was working on a magnetron (a device that generates the vibrating electromagnetic waves necessary to make radar possible) to boost the power levels that could be used in radar sets.

Sometime halfway through his experiments, Percy put his hand into his pocket, only to realize that the peanut cluster candy bar he had in there had melted. Curious to find out more about the process, he concentrated the electromagnetic waves on a raw egg, which exploded in his face.

It didn’t take long for Spencer to develop a commercial microwave oven. The first model was released on the market in 1947, but the machine was heavy, gigantic, and too expensive for the average family to afford: over 740 pounds, almost 6.5 feet, and $5,000. It would take another two decades for the technology to be what it is today—one of the greatest military inventions ever made.

Keep reading to discover two other great military inventions!

4. Superglue

In 1942, during World War II, a young scientist named Harry Coover was employed by a defense contractor as a research chemist. His first task was to create a material that could be used to develop high-precision targeting sights for weapons.

While experimenting with several compounds, Coover ended up creating a substance that couldn’t be used at all for the project. The reason? It was sticking to everything! So, the super sticky substance was put aside and duly forgotten. The government also canceled the defense contract.

Nearly ten years later, Coover was leading a team of researchers on another project. While working on it, one of his assistants accidentally glued two lenses together using the previously shelved substance. What initially seemed like a mistake ended up being a commercial opportunity.

In 1956, Coover officially received a patent for its invention, superglue.

aviator sunglasses
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5. Aviator sunglasses

Last on our list of military inventions are aviator sunglasses. They were developed in the 1930s as a less cumbersome version of the fur-lined goggles worn by pilots in the early days of aviation. Those types of goggles were pretty heavy and uncomfortable to wear, not to mention they could fog up mid-flight, which made the job of flying difficult.

Once cockpits became entirely encased in glass, it became less essential to wear bulky eyewear that could protect against the cold. However, it was still crucial to shield pilots’ eyes from the blinding sunlight.

So, out of necessity, aviator sunglasses were made, becoming one of the best military inventions. Colonel John Macready of the US Army Air Corps reached out to a company, and they developed the first set of aviator sunglasses. They called them Ray-Bans because that’s exactly what they were for: keeping the sun’s rays out of a pilot’s eyes.

The new eyewear was initially much more expensive than ordinary sunglasses. Moreover, the new sunglasses were only marketed as sporting equipment for golfers and fishermen.

However, throughout World War II, civilians back home saw countless pictures of pilots wearing the distinctive sunglasses. After the war, aviators became extremely popular among Hollywood stars like Marlon Brando.

After more than eight decades, aviator sunglasses have remained a fashion staple—classic, timeless, and nostalgic all at once. You’re looking for a new pair? Amazon has plenty of models!

If you liked our article about military inventions, you may also want to read Top 8 Random Things Scientists CAN’T Figure Out.


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