There are many gadgets that we’ve ‘inherited’ courtesy of the military that we take for granted yet enrich our daily lives. The US Department of Defense (DoD) has a sizable portion of its financial budget that is partially secret that goes towards R&D on cutting-edge and next-generation technology. Over the past 80 years or so, a number of current consumer technologies have stemmed either directly or indirectly from DoD-directed research and even actual products that the US military has used in the field.
Here are just 4 of some of the notable ones that we use and benefit from today.
1. Jeeps: The First SUV
In 1941, the Willys Jeep was manufactured for the United States military. It had a stiffer suspension for handling off-road conditions, more space than an automobile and a higher ground clearance. Over the years, this off-road vehicle became the model for modern sports utility vehicles, which appeal to those who want more space with the more rugged structure of a truck. The SUV interior became more and more comfortable. In 1971, the Humvee followed the military to civilian path just like its Jeep predecessor.
2. Global Positioning System (GPS)
The Global Positioning System (GPS) was created and is administered by the United States Department of Defense. It is a satellite-based navigation system, which assists in improving the accuracy of missiles. Since the 1980s, GPS has been made available for civilian purposes. It has provided valuable driving instructions and assisted in emergency rescue.
3. Night Vision Goggles
In 2000, the United States Army began tests a fused imaging system combining a thermal camera with a helmet to help soldiers see in complete darkness. Soldier feedback helped improve the product to maximize image clarity and situational awareness. Night vision google were the result. Unaided human eyesight has a limited spectral and intensity range. Night vision goggles have enhanced human eyesight with sensors for reading electromagnetic radiation. Dark images are made more intense and illuminated by the military-developed night vision goggles.
4. The Internet
In the 1960s, the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) became the world’s first functioning packet switching network. It was funded by the Department of Defense with technical assistance from universities. Gradually, the ARPANET was expanded across the United States via university and government hosts. In the 1970s, the ARPANET was expended to federal wide area networks giving rise to the modern Internet.
These military innovations have had an enormous effect on the way we live our lives. Thanks to the military for these great gadgets!
Photo credits: Jeep Nostalgia by Dru Bloomfield – At Home in Scottsdale/flickr; GPS waypoint by sridgway/flickr; IMG_0709 by Jemimus/flickr; Chinese students surfing on the Internet by SCA Svenska Cellulosa Aktiebolaget/flickr