They say that necessity is the mother of invention. Humans have learned to adapt because we needed something at some point. To address that lack of some “thing”, mankind has drawn its inherent powers of the mind to create something that is primarily useful to all.
While some would contest that not all inventions are created equal – with some arguing that technology has its downside – we certainly cannot deny the advantages and benefits of what innovations man has come up with.
At times, even the most discordant settings can produce helpful aids. Not to condone war or strife, but certain technologies we enjoy today were borne out of the need to cope with matters of armed conflict.
Here are some inventions that sprouted from the military bed.
1. The Internet
This list would not be complete if it did not include one of mankind’s greatest inventions – the internet.
With the need to enhance point-to-point communication, the digital communication system had to be born. From the United States Department of Defense’s efforts came ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network). This provided the technical foundation of the internet and has since taken on a life of its own.
Now, the internet and all its other permutations have snaked their way into our daily lives. They have made information more accessible, providing a technology superhighway that connects people in the most amazing ways.
2. Global Positioning System (GPS)
Where would people be without the GPS leading the way?
Although an exaggeration (or is it?), this radionavigation system has pierced into the civilian consciousness and has since then changed lives forever. It might be melodramatic to say so, but it has come a long way from when it was invented in the ‘70s.
Conceived primarily for military use, GPS was finally made available for the common people to use in the ‘80s. Since then, it has provided crucial positioning capabilities to military, civil, and commercial entities.
Today, widespread use of navigation systems has made life more convenient. From critical search and rescue missions used by advanced military vehicles, to searching for that one vacation spot you want to enjoy, GPS has certainly claimed its position in history.
3. Off-road Vehicles
One of the earliest accounts for off-road vehicle use was after the Russian Revolution of 1917. This was when Adolphe Kégresse, a French military engineer who invented the half track and dual-clutch transmission, went back to his native land and worked for Citroën between the years 1921 and 1937 and used his system for off-road and military vehicles.
Off-road vehicles of today are miles and miles apart from that historical conversion. From military 4×4 vehicles to the preferred transport of adventurous junkies, these automobiles have developed into sophisticated means of transport. They have various cross-terrain capabilities as well as other features that make them valuable, and not only in the military setting.
4. Duct Tape
Thanks to a mother’s thoughtfulness and love, the “duck tape” — as it was originally called because (1) It was waterproof, and (2) It was made of cotton duck fabric — was invented.
With her sons serving in the military during World War II, Vesta Stoudt, a woman who was working packing and inspecting cartridges used to launch rifle grenades, had a lightbulb moment. Noticing the need for a strong, waterproof tape, she sent her idea through a letter to then President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Her letter was written with a purpose and a strong desire to save the lives of not only her sons, but the sons of so many others.
Realizing the importance of her suggestion, the duct tape was commissioned to be produced by Johnson & Johnson.
From the trenches of war to our daily domestic battles, the duct tape has stuck and has since been part of our lives.
5. Aviator Sunglasses
This may be the most “trivial” in the list, but we cannot negate the importance of this stylish pair of shades.
These sunglasses were originally meant to shade the eyes of air force pilots who reported to have vision problems at high altitudes because of the sun’s glare. A sunglasses manufacturer then made a new kind of glasses with green lenses. This anti-glare technology was made available to the public in 1937 and has become a trend with irrefutable staying power.
Today, this stylish pair of sunnies not only has functional purposes but is part of the fashionable set’s ensemble. From the air strips to the fashion runways, aviators are here to stay.
All’s well that ends well.
While these innovations had their genesis in the pools of military warfare, we cannot deny the fact that their usefulness has long surpassed their original purpose. These remarkable breakthroughs in our history may have stemmed from the need to combat hostile forces, but thankfully, they have found a way to provide a better use for the greater good.
It will still always be a matter of choice as to how these things are made. In the end, it still depends on the human capacity to think and weigh the consequences of how these inventions will impact society.