Home

 › 

Slideshows

 › 

15 Modern Day Conveniences that Started in the Military

wi-fi icon internet connectivity

15 Modern Day Conveniences that Started in the Military

In the world of modern-day conveniences, there is a good chance many people don’t know many origin stories. Some of the conveniences we use every day we take for granted and believe they have just been around forever. Unfortunately, this isn’t reality and, in many cases, these modern-day conveniences have the military to thank for their development. 

If you think about the internet and how much it has changed the world, there has to be an origin story. The internet is largely what it is now because of a project started in 1969 by ARPANET working for the U.S. Department of Defense. This is just one example of how the military is responsible for many important things we use today. 

Let’s take a deeper look at some of the modern-day conveniences and how the military is responsible.

The Internet

The Internet is one of the most important modern-day conveniences developed by the military.

Using the internet today is almost second nature and it would be incredibly difficult to go back to a world before its invention. This invention is due to work ARPANET experimented with starting in 1969. Acting on orders from the U.S. Department of Defense, ARPANET wanted to try and connect universities, defense contractors, and government agencies through a single network.

At the time, computers were massive and limited in power so connecting them increased how well every computer could perform exponentially. Thus, the internet was born and a modern-day convenience it’s been ever since.

GPS

There is no question that GPS has become a vital modern-day convenience.

Can you imagine a world without Apple Maps or Google Maps? Even though it wasn’t too long ago we printed out Yahoo Maps, today we rely heavily on smartphone GPS or in-vehicle GPS. Unsurprisingly, the origins of GPS trace back to the U.S. Department of Defense.

In 1978, the Defense Department launched its first satellite in its NAVISTAR program. While originally limited to just military applications, the U.S. government gave the whole world GPS access in 1983. It’s hard to argue how much of a modern-day convenience GPS has become.

Microwave Ovens

A modern-day convenience to be sure, microwaves are in millions of homes.

The foundation of the microwave oven is more of an accident than an intentional discovery. Raytheon engineer Perry Spencer was working on a military-grade magnetron experiment. It was during his tests that he realized his chocolate melted.

After a few more tests, Spencer learned he could cook eggs and popcorn kernels. One year later, the microwave oven hit the commercial market.

Superglue

super glue tube on blue background
Superglue is both a modern-day convenience and it can get everywhere.

The surprising origins of superglue trace back to 1942 and World War 2. It was during this year that a scientist named Harry Coover began work at a defense contractor. One of Harry’s first assignments was to assist with making a material that could help attach precision targeting sights on rifles.

As his experiments continued, Hoover eventually created what would become known as cyanoacrylate. Unfortunately, the project was shelved only to be rediscovered years later and, voila, superglue was born.

Aviator Sunglasses

What President Biden Accomplished Last Week February 19-25, 2024
There is no question that aviator sunglasses have had a good few decades.

While Tom Cruise might have made these glasses famous in Top Gun, he didn’t discover them. The history of these sunglasses goes back to the 1930s. Looking to find a less heavy alternative to pilots’ fur-lined goggles, Colonel John Macready of the U.S. Army Air Corps worked to develop the first set of Ray-Bans. The name was derived from the sunglass’s goal, to ban the rays of the sun from blocking the pilot’s eyes.

Cargo Pants

Collage different angle view of a cropped shot of man in beige blank t-shirt and green cargo pants. Standing on gray background. Mockup for print or design template. Basic clothing line no logo
Once considered heavily fashionable, cargo pants are not as popular these days.

Cargo pants are a love-them-or-hate-them fashion statement these days, but their origins are all about the military. During the start of World War 2, the British battle dress uniform included pants that had pockets on a side thigh and one covering a soldier’s front hip.

The idea was to give every soldier another pocket for the gear they would carry into battle. By the 1990s, cargo pants were born and took over the world, at least for a time.

WD-40

WD-40
WD-40 is a great solution for quick fixes in the home.

Anyone who has ever been to a hardware store knows WD-40 is one of the greatest things ever created. What isn’t known is that its founding traces back to protecting the Atlas Missile project from things like corrosion and rust.

It took Rocket Chemical Co. 40 separate attempts before the company landed on the formula that would become WD-40, hence the name. It’s easy to call WD-40 a modern-day convenience because it is a necessity in every home.

Walkie-Talkies

Handheld walkie talkie for outdoor
Walkie-talkies are an easy modern-day convenience on construction job sites.

Even though we live in the world of smartphones, Walkie-Talkies are still a modern-day convenience. Best used in construction and by neighborhood kids, this technology was derived from work done in the Second World War.

The goal was to give the U.S. Army an easy way to securely communicate battle instructions while in the field. For many jobs, the walkie-talkie is a vital modern-day convenience that helps get a job done every day.

Silly Putty

A woman's hand crumples purple rubber taken out of a jar on a bright yellow background. Anti-stress toy for stress relief and rehabilitation therapy of hand injuries. Copy space
Kids love silly putty and they have the military to thank for its development.

First discovered in 1943, engineer James Wright was attempting to come up with a synthetic rubber solution. As rubber was difficult to manufacture due to war shortages, synthetic rubber was a fantastic solution.

However, in 1943, Wright combined boric acid and silicone oil, which turned into a stretchy globby solution. Even though it wasn’t a wartime tool, Silly Putty has the military to thank for its invention.

Frozen Orange Juice

Frozen orange juice can be found at just about every grocery store as it’s good for you.

In an effort to make sure soldiers on the front line had enough Vitamin C, USDA scientists created a frozen orange concentrate. Unfortunately, the juice never had a chance to make it to the front lines.

The plus side is that Minute Maid would purchase the formula. Today, frozen orange juice is available in every grocery store around the world.

Digital Pictures

The camera on the background blurry city lights
Digital pictures were of vital importance throughout the Cold War.

As the Cold War heated up between the U.S. and Russia, the need for spy satellites grew. As a result, both countries wanted to take pictures of what the other country was up to at the time. By the 1970s, the digital camera was created.

While it would take time to progress technically to DSLR quality, the digital camera helped the U.S. spy on Russian bases and vice-versa. Digital cameras are undoubtedly a modern-day convenience as they are now found in every smartphone available.

Wristwatches

Smart watch on woman's hand outdoor. Girl using smartwatches. Young woman browsing notificatins on modern smart wristwatches connected to internet. Female using touchscreen on gadget.
Surprisingly, wristwatches were not commonly worn before World War 2.

Dating back to the 1880s, members of the German Imperial Navy complained that it was difficult to use a pocket watch while in combat. In its place, a German officer had created a pocket watch that was strapped to his wrist as a quick solution.

Thus, the wristwatch was born. Water resistance on wristwatches was a World War 2 creation, so soldiers had a usable watch in case of an abandoned ship or ditching an aircraft.

Canned Food

Canned food is now a modern-day convenience found in every grocery store.

Looking to preserve food, the French government helped explore the idea of a canned solution in 1810. However, it wasn’t until World War 1 that canned food took off. During the war, soldiers could consume food items like canned sausages, corned beef, and pork and beans. These meals provided much-needed sustenance on the battlefield. After the war, canned foods would come to civilian supermarkets.

Drones

DJI Mavic 3
The development of drones has helped popularize an entire commercial and military industry.

Drones are very much a modern-day convenience these days. From little kids to professional drone leagues, these devices are everywhere. However, drone life first began as an unmanned aerial vehicle or UAV. Germany helped kickstart the use of drones during World War 2 but it wasn’t until the U.S. military made significant investments over the last few decades that drones have really kicked off.

Radar

Radar screen with green display indication on a captains bridge of modern ship
The use of radar has saved countless lives because of bad weather and visibility.

The use of radar is everywhere these days. For anyone who owns a boat or a plane, having radar onboard is a vital component for safety. The same can be said for both commercial and military ships and planes.

It was back during World War 2 that radar began to take shape. Needing a solution to battle poor weather visibility, radar developers learned that radio waves would reflect off of solid objects like enemy aircraft.

To top