Consumer Products

Famous Products Invented for the Military

1. GPS
> Date invented: 1959

The GPS, or global positioning system, was originally developed for Air Force and Navy use. Between 1973 and 1978, Dr. Bradford Parkinson worked with both military branches to develop the Navstar GPS system, which relies on numerous satellites positioned at staggered points around the earth. The system uses multiple satellites to triangulate users’ location and help navigate. It can be very accurate any time of day, anywhere in the world. It is accurate enough for the military, which uses it to guide missiles and track aircraft and vessels. In The technology can now be found in many commercial applications, including airlines, cars and smartphones. In the late 1980s and early ’90s, the United States launched a second generation of satellites, which are more accurate than the first. The European Union and China have begun to develop their own independent networks.

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2. Duct Tape
> Date invented: 1942

In World War II, Johnson & Johnson’s Revolite Permacell division developed the widely purposable tape most Americans recognize as duct, or “duck” tape. The tape’s ease of use, durability and water-resistance made it useful to seal containers and fix windows and equipment during the war. The basic components of the product is medical tape with polyethylene backing. When used in the army, it was typically green, but after the war, it was used in civilian applications such as construction and repair and became recognizable for its silver-gray color. Several companies now manufacture duct tape, including Scotch and Duck-brand.

3. Jeep
> Date invented: 1940s

Four-wheel-drive technology actually had been around since the turn of the 20th century. By the 1930s, the military needed a scout car that could have speed and versatility in addition to hauling power and all-terrain capacity. The problem was that these two features were mutually exclusive from an engineering standpoint. The first Jeep that made it to battle, the Willys-Overland MB, provided the answer as the perfect army scout vehicle. Its performance in the war was so outstanding that Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “America could not have won World War II without it.” With war hero status, the military buggy had no trouble transitioning into a civilian car, with Americans appreciating the new light utility vehicles. Now, the Jeep brand continues to market itself on military toughness, going as far as joining with the Call of Duty video game franchise to promote its vehicles.

4. Microwave Oven
> Date invented: 1945

The technology behind the microwave oven was developed during World War II. At the time, the U.S. and British militaries engineered the magnetron, which was the result of research conducted on radio transmission and radar detection. The magnetron produced much smaller radio waves, known as microwaves, and was small and powerful enough to be used in airplanes. Its detection capabilities helped solve the persistent problem of accurately bombing towns. Microwaves’ ability to heat food was discovered accidentally after the war in 1945. Percy Lebaron Spencer, who was employed at the time by the American defense contractor Raytheon Company, realized at work one day that radar waves had melted a candy bar in his pocket. Raytheon produced the first commercially available microwave oven in 1954. Today, microwaves are used in a variety of applications, including in detecting speed, sending telephone and television communications, curing plywood, treating muscle soreness and of course in microwave ovens.

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