Special Report

15 Commercial Products Invented by the Military

Source: Thinkstock

11. Frozen juice concentrate
> Date invented:

In 1943, the USDA and the Florida Citrus Commission set to work on the development of a frozen juice concentrate that could be sent to U.S. soldiers overseas. At the time of their collaboration, orange juice that had been frozen and thawed would turn an unappetizing brown color. The thawed juice also developed a bitter taste, prompting soldiers to nickname the beverage “battery acid.” Eventually, USDA scientists discovered that adding a dash of fresh orange juice to the concentrate before freezing it preserved its flavor. The process was patented in 1945 but made available to any public or private entity that wished to use it. Minute Maid began selling frozen juice products commercially in 1946. In 2014, orange juice was the most commonly consumed fruit product in the United States, with the average citizen drinking 31.3 pounds of juice annually.

Source: Thinkstock

12. Microwave oven
> Date invented:

Microwave technology was originally used as a radar to help locate enemies during World War II. The ability of microwaves to cook food was discovered by accident. While conducting research on microwave radar technology, an engineer at defense contractor Raytheon Company noticed that a candy bar in his pocket had melted. This led to the realization that microwave equipment could be repurposed to heat and cook foods. Later that year, Raytheon Company filed the first patent for a microwave oven. The first commercial microwave was manufactured in 1954 and was about the size of a refrigerator. Today, more than nine in 10 U.S. households own a microwave oven. The technology is one of many military inventions that have shaped the American kitchen and kitchens worldwide.

Source: Thinkstock

13. GPS
> Date invented:

Humans have been navigating the land and the sea for thousands of years, using more and more advanced methods to determine their position. In the 1960s, the DoD developed the original Global Positioning System (GPS). The idea was to use satellites to determine a user’s position on Earth by measuring his or her distance from three peripheral satellites in a process known as trilateration. The system would require 24 satellites. While the system became fully operational in March 1994, it captured the public’s interest long before then. President Ronald Reagan first ensured civil applications of GPS in 1983, after an incident where a Korean airliner that strayed off course and was shot down by the Soviet Union demonstrated the need for better navigational technology. The public received a comprehensive preview of the technology during the Gulf War, when soldiers used GPS to navigate across deserts and target enemies with an accuracy that was previously impossible. Today, GPS technology is used in consumer products such as cars and phones, as well as applications like earthquake research and geocaching.

Source: Thinkstock

14. Boeing 747
> Date invented:

Boeing is one of the world’s largest weapons manufacturers. Unlike many other defense contractors, the aerospace behemoth also has a major presence in non-military markets. The Boeing 747 commercial airliner is perhaps the company’s most iconic product. Like most commercial jets in use today, the 747’s design is based on the Boeing 707, which can be traced to the Boeing 367-80. This model, nicknamed the Dash 80, was developed in secrecy by Boeing and unveiled in 1954. The plane was originally meant to test the long-range jet engine technology and was intended to be sold as a military tanker transport. That year, the U.S. Air Force ordered 29 of the jets, called KC-135.

Today, versions of the 747 are used by most major commercial airliners as well as by the military, including a version used as Air Force One.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

15. Google Street View
> Date invented:

The technological precursors of Google’s Street View can be traced back to 1978, when a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers mapped Aspen, Colorado with 16mm stop-frame cameras. The project, called the Aspen Movie Map, was funded by DARPA’s Cybernetics Technology Office. The military was interested in the mapping to improve training simulations. The researchers used cameras mounted on cars not unlike the vehicles Google uses to create Street View.

Unlike most of the products on this list, the development of Google Street View is not directly a product of its precursor, Aspen Movie Map. Google asserts that Street View originated in a project at Stanford University. By now, much of the planet has been photographed and mapped. Not only the military uses Street View to simulate combat situations and for other applications, but the public as well. Today, people can experience the world without leaving their home.

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