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PDF Editor FAQ
Do military expenditures build products that enhance anyone's quality of life?
I love this question because there is just so much to talk about. There are literally thousands of technologies that can be traced back to the military funding or military necessity that we now use daily in our everyday lives. That said, I scavenged around the internet for a list of the some my favorite uses that come from direct military research. For that reason, I take no responsibility or credit for writing any of the sections (besides vaccines and refrigerators. You can blame me there if you disagree.) I'm just delivering the information to new readers. You can see all my sources for more information at the bottom.The InternetProbably the most visible product of military research is what you’re using to read this very article. The research, protocols, and basic hardware that became the foundation of the Internet were all developed by primarily military government agencies, beginning with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency’s 1962 mandate to connect the computers of the Pentagon, the Strategic Air Command, and the bombproof defense command centers buried deep below Cheyenne Mountain.In August 1962, JCR Licklider’s paper entitled “On-Line Man Computer Communication” described a connected global network, and by October he’d been appointed director of the new Information Processing Techniques Office (IPTO) at ARPA, as it was called back then. His brief was to create a network to connect Department of Defense computers at three disparate locations. It wasn’t until another internet pioneer, Robert Taylor, took over as the head of IPTO and brought in Larry Roberts from MIT that work on building the network began. The first host-to-host connection between PCs on the new Arpanet was established at 10.30pm on 29 October 1969, creating the world’s first fully operational packet-switching network. By December, a four-node network was up and running, the first email was sent across it in 1972, and people started referring to it as the internet in 1973.DARPA research teams came up with the fundamental technologies that made computer networking possible, and when the military computers were successfully linked, the government made the technology available to America’s college system, where it was further refined until it became the preferred distribution channel for all the world’s news, entertainment, and pornography.Although there are many individuals to whom the development of the net can be attributed, without DARPA it simply wouldn’t exist.Internet anonymityI know right? Privacy, anonymity and government agencies aren’t natural bedfellows, but bear with us. Those who care about online privacy will probably have heard of the Tor privacy service, which, when used in conjunction with the Tor private browser, offers possibly the most anonymous method of being on the internet.The core principle behind Tor – namely, “onion routing” – was originally funded by the US Office of Naval Research in 1995, and the development of the technology was helped along by DARPA in 1997. Three years later, the Tor network emerged as a direct result of the earlier DARPA-funded work.So, what is an onion network? It involves adding a layer of encryption for each router node along the path that your data travels, each encryption layer being peeled back one at a time by routers along the way.Each router unpeels a single layer to get instructions on where to send the data packets next, but can’t see where the data packets have come from. None of these nodes knows the origin of those packets, nor the ultimate destination, nor does it have access to the contents of your data transfer.VaccinesModern vaccines probably date back to practices developed during the American Revolutionary War and can probably be traced back even further to ancient Africa. While in Valley Forge, the Colonial army suffered a hard winter. Among problems such as no food, poor clothing and the freezing winter, Valley Forge was wrought with the diseases that run in such camps. Among them a smallpox epidemic.It was seen in those days that one population of Americans had a surprising resistance to various diseases such as Smallpox. This group was the slaves brought over from Africa. According to them, the slaves owed their resilience to a strange practice brought over by the slaves that was said to protect them from the disease. This practice would appear to regular people like you and me to be barbaric at best and to many, looks much more like dark arts and evil magic. This practice involved a practitioner to pierce with a knife the puss ridden whelps of an animal diseased with Cowpox, a relative of the Smallpox virus. With the knife now contaminated with the bovine's infected puss, the practitioner would then wipe the puss against an open wound on the patient's body. This wound was usually a large cut and usually self inflicted for the purposes of the procedure. Now let's go back a few hundred years before our understanding of modern microbiology. This sounds completely stupid. Honestly I have no idea how anyone would have ever thought to do this, or why any doctor in his right might would go for it, but for the Africans it seemed to noticeably work. Perhaps pushed by desperation or lack of knowing any better, Colonial doctors tried something revolutionary, or at least very stupid by conventional wisdom of the day. The Americans gave it a stab.The immediate results were devastating. About 1 in 10 came down with a severe outbreak of a disease similar to the Smallpox virus. Many died. Yet this was a win for the men of Valley Forge. How? Because 1 in 10 is much better than the 1 in 4 that would have been expected to die given no protection from the virus. Considering where we were in history of medicine, this amounted to a medical miracle.Since that time we have come a long way in how we understand diseases and how we make and use vaccines. So much so that diseases like one of the world's deadliest diseases in history, Smallpox has been eradicated completely. Polio went from being a disease that could still take down one of the wealthiest and most powerful people in the world in the 1920's (Franklin D. Roosevelt) to almost non-existent in the 2020's. Thousands of diseases are loosing the battle for our lives and now millions of people who wouldn't be here are. Still there is an important lesson to know from how it all got started and how that applies today. When vaccines were first used in practice that we know of, it came with a 1 in 10 casualty rating. This was seen as blessing because of the very real threat that the disease posed. the 10% chance of getting sick to Cowpox was far better than the 25% chance of dying to Smallpox. That is what we today have to accept. No good thing comes without some risk, but with vaccines the risk of not putting your faith in them is far, far greater than if you do.The Global Positioning SystemWhen you rely on the GPS app on that Android phone to keep yourself from getting lost, you’re using the same Global Positioning System satellites set up by the U.S. Department of Defense starting in 1979. At President Clinton’s behest, the system became available to civilian users in 1996.The GPS, or global positioning system, was originally developed for Air Force and Navy use. Ground-based radio systems like LORAN had been a vital part of sea and air navigation since the Thirties, but the tumult of World War II had shown that a system dependent on terrestrial antennas and command centers was vulnerable to enemy attack. The United States Navy, in great need of an all-weather navigation system practically invulnerable from enemy action, commissioned the “Transit/NAVSTAR” satellite system in the Sixties as an aid to their Polaris-class nuclear missile subs, and the navigational system soon spread to the rest of the American military establishment.Transit was so useful that NATO adopted and enlarged it to form a navigational network named “Navstar-GPS,” a system that the Reagan administration released to the public shortly after a Korean airliner strayed into Russian airspace and was shot down.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.Today, the technology is so ubiquitous that it’s hard to buy a cellphone that doesn’t have a GPS antenna built into it.Freeze DryingDippin’ Dots, anyone? The technology that’s now used to make freeze-dried ice cream was first used widely during World War II as a way of preserving medical supplies that otherwise required refrigeration.EpipenEpiPens, the auto-injecting syringes that allow you to give yourself a quick shot of epinephrine to stave off an allergic reaction, sprung from a similar device designed to protect soldiers from nerve agents and chemical weapons.In fact, I still remember the rhyme my HAZMAT specialist taught me.ANTROPENETWO-PANCLORIDEDANTROPENETWO-PANCLORIDEDAlright it doesn't rhyme. The military doesn't do good at rhyming, just remember the "TWO". It goes in second, or you die.Cargo PantsBritish soldiers began sporting cargo pants in the 1930s because they offered a convenient way to carry vital military gear like ammunition. American troops adopted them just a few years later, and the general public began to wear them in the 1990s.Duct TapeIn 1942, duct tape was invented for the military as a way to seal ammunition cases so that water couldn’t get in. Soldiers during WWII quickly realized that it worked well for fixing army gear, too. 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.Gas CansYou know those canisters you use in order to get gasoline to put in your lawnmower? They were initially developed for the German military in the 1930s.JeepThe Jeep has come a long way since it was first manufactured for American troops to use on reconnaissance missions in WWII. Now celebrating its 70th anniversary, some new models of the world’s oldest SUV come equipped with luxuries such as leather-wrapped steering wheels, DVD players, and touchscreen media consoles.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.ComputersENIAC, the first electronic computer that was capable of being programmed to serve many different purposes, was designed for the U.S. military during WWII. The army paid for the computer to be built so they could use it in their Ballistic Research Laboratory.Microwave OvensOne of the most dramatic technological advantages to come out of WWII was the power and sophistication of radar: beginning the war in the form of giant antenna installations that couldn’t measure distance, altitude, and bearing at the same time and ending it in applications small enough to fit in some of the world’s first guided missiles. While you’re not likely to be using a lot of guided missiles in your everyday life, you’re almost certain to use an accidental byproduct of radar research—the microwave oven.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. An American scientist realized that the radar transmitters used by the U.S. Army throughout WWII actually released enough heat—in the form of “microwaves”—that they could cook food. 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. After confirming that he himself had not also melted and presumably getting a new coat, Spencer determined that the microwave radiation was responsible for heating the candy bar but not the wrapper, and proposed to use this phenomenon to cook foods. This technology was used to construct the first microwave oven within the next 2 years. Eight years later, Raytheon produced the gigantic 1161 Radarange for commercial and institutional use; a further thirteen years of tweaking and tinkering shrank the Radarange’s size and price tag down to civilian levels, selling the new model under Raytheon’s domestic badge Amana. 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.RefrigeratorsRefrigeration has existed for many years. At any point where you could stick a block of ice inside a box, you had a working refrigerator unit. It wasn't until World War II that there came a great need to ship massive amounts of food goods overseas for long voyages and, preferably, keep them fresh. With this came the advent of the Freon. The introduction of Freon in the 1920s expanded the refrigerator market during the 1930s and provided a safer, low-toxicity alternative to previously used refrigerants. Separate freezers became common during the 1940s, the popular term at the time for the unit was a deep freeze. These devices, or appliances, did not go into mass production for use in the home until after World War II.Freon usage in refrigeration units also led the way for modern air conditioning.Digital CamerasMajor governments have launched sophisticated spy satellites with super-high-resolution cameras into orbit since the late fifties in order to sneak a peek on each others’ troop concentrations and industrial developments. While the photos from these satellites were priceless in intelligence terms, there was one major technical snag that made relying on them a pain in the ass: the only way to get at these pictures was to grab the undeveloped film canisters that the satellite would periodically poop out, a complicated operation that involved a mid-air snagging of the canister’s tiny parachute as it drifted through the atmosphere.Almost a third of the results of America’s otherwise successful “Keyhole” spy satellite program were lost due to this tricky retrieval program, but the NASA/USAF KH-11 “Kennan” satellite of 1976 put an end to the problem with the use of a revolutionary electro-optical camera that transmitted images in encoded digital format. The fundamentals of the technology are still in use in modern digital cameras, and the updated form of the KH-11 is still a major part of American surveillance technology.AntibioticsPenicillin was first isolated in a usable anti-bacterial agent in 1928 by Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming, but its medical usefulness wasn’t apparent until the beginning of the Second World War. The rots and infectious diseases that plagued the wounded soldiers of World War One were largely eliminated by early antibiotic treatments like sulfonamide and benzylpenicillin. After the war, these antibiotics became a common part of Western medicine, so much so that the overuse of these medicines is now a major health problem.Canned FoodBack when France was an unstoppable military superpower instead of a tired joke about cheese eating, the French government under Napoleon offered an astonishing 12,000 franc reward to any inventor that could create a way to preserve and store lots of cheap crappy food. At the time, France was busy kicking ass throughout almost all of Europe and was seriously considering launching an assault on a completely new and different continent, so the French military was extremely interested in any new developments in feeding a huge number of people as cheaply as possible.Chef and brewer Nicolas Appert happened to notice that food cooked in sealed jars never seemed to spoil, and his discovery was soon adapted to the use of tin cans for preservation. Unfortunately for French soldiers, the invention of the can-opener came a full thirty years after the invention of the can, so troops in the field had to make do with bayonets, entrenchment tools, and sharp rocks in order to eat the carefully-preserved foods within the can.Ambulance ServicesA refinement of the traditional process of carting away the dead and dying to someplace where they would stink less, the ambulance first made an appearance in the Spanish army of the late 15th century. The “ambulancias” more properly referred to the portable military hospitals that followed the troops around, but came to be attached to the wagons and litters that would remove the wounded from the battlefield after the fight had been won.The “flying ambulance” of Napoleon’s army is closer to our modern conception of the ambulance—a two or four-wheeled carriage that would venture out into enemy fire to rescue the wounded and provide basic first aid until the patient reached the hospital camp.The ambulance cart became standard issue for Union troops during the Civil War, and in 1869 former Army surgeon Edward Dalton introduced the first large-scale ambulance service to the Commercial Hospital of Cincinnati. By the end of the following year, the service had answered 1401 emergency calls.SunglassesAviators soon became inextricably linked in the public mind with the classic cool of the victorious American Air Force, as well as the grandiose swaggering of General Douglas MacArthur, who was rarely seen without his aviators. The characteristically dark shades of the aviator sunglasses were at one time necessary for test pilots pushing the limits of the airplane. Today almost exclusively sported by ironic hipsters and extremely un-ironic cops, the classic “aviator” style of sunglasses was invented by the Ray-Ban corporation to protect pilots’ eyes from glints and glares.At high altitudes, a pilot’s eyes could either be severely damaged by the extremely bright light in the upper atmosphere, or they could freeze in temperatures approaching -80 degrees Fahrenheit. In such conditions, goggles with dark lenses and a tear-drop shape were ideal. A design that prevented as much sunlight as possible from reaching the eye led to Ray-Ban Aviator sunglasses, which became standard gear for men enlisted in the military during World War II. Covering as much of the eye as possible and tempered to block up to 80% of incoming light, the original Aviators were essential equipment for fighter pilots and bomber crews who always had to keep an eye out for enemy planes coming out of the angle of the sun.Since the war, Ray-Bans have made prominent appearances in movies such as Taxi Driver and Top Gun, and were famously worn by celebrities such as Michael Jackson.Safety RazorsMany believe that King Camp Gillette was the originator of the so-called “razor and blades” business model (sometimes expressed as “give ‘em the razor, sell ‘em the blades”) as a fundamental part of the disposable “safety” razor concept he had developed in 1903. In fact, Gillette screwed up his launch, pricing blade refills much higher than the public was willing to pay for, and when his patents lapsed copycat companies adopted the sold nearly identical designs at much cheaper rates—a lower profit margin but a steady source of income.Gillette regrouped and started pricing his stuff smarter, but he really hit it big when he snared the contract to supply every American soldier in WWI with a Gillette shaving kit. Practically overnight, the safety razor became an indispensable part of a man’s grooming kit, assuring the success of the Gillette brand up to this day.Tampons, Pads and other Feminine Hygiene ProductsThe biggest problem with war is that it tends to put holes in people, thus encouraging blood to take a scenic stroll through places it's not supposed to visit. Especially during World War I, when the dead and wounded toll hit the double-digit millions. And especially when a cotton shortage made the bandaging of dying soldiers a pain in the neck.In 1914, Kimberly-Clark was a paper mill company that realized you could do more with wood pulp besides just make it into paper. In fact, by carefully mixing and forming the right combination of pulp, you could get a material that was five times more absorbent than cotton, yet significantly cheaper to produce. Kimberly-Clark began selling their new “cellulocotton” to the military at cost, providing the Allied soldiers of WWI with an excellent new material to use for bandaging and sealing wounds, but then nurses began using it also during their menstrual cycle.After the war, Kimberly-Clark found itself in possession of a number of huge factories dedicated to producing cellulocotton, but not nearly as much demand from civilian doctors and surgeons. It looked like a lot of plants would have to close, at the cost of hundreds of jobs and millions of dollars, when one Kimberly-Clark executive came across an odd rumor concerning the Army nurses that had served at or near the front lines of the war.At the time, women’s menstrual pads were cumbersome cloth flaps that had to be washed and re-worn. Many women felt embarrassed by these “sanitary napkins,” partly because it was considered outstandingly rude to talk about anything period-related in public and partly because these early pads were more similar to diapers than the little numbers of today.The war nurses, being practical women, soon ditched their pads (which were a nightmare to keep clean in battlefield conditions) and cut themselves snips of cellulocotton, allowing them greater freedom of movement and comfort. When K-C found this out, they immediately launched the “Cellunap” sanitary napkin and eventually the Kotex (for “cotton textile”) women’s hygiene brand. Initially, according to the company, it struggled to market Kotex due to social taboos. In an effort to sell more of its wadding, the company, using a slightly altered ingredient blend, began producing Kleenex tissues. Kotex ads were unusually upfront about the taboo subject of periods, and often made mention of the product’s military roots and close connection to the military nurses. With a quick re-branding that actually capitalized on their product's origin, and that those nurses LOVED using their bandages during their periods.Meanwhile, cellulocotton has typically been replaced in both field dressings and tampons by newer synthetics like Curlex, although medics today have been known to plunder the female hygiene sections of PXes and supply cars when they’re running short of purpose-designed bandages.A Bunch of Classic ToysIn 1943, naval engineer Richard James was working on a doozy of a problem. Delicate equipment aboard battleships had this way of getting knocked the hell around during high seas. So James was messing around with springs to support the phonogram machines or whatever, when what do you know? He dropped one of the springs. And instead of just sitting there like a punk, the little spring kind of stepped away in a very slinky-like manner.Knowing that there was nothing kids loved more than coiled metal, James figured he just might have invented the world's greatest toy ever. Within two years, James found the perfect metal for his toy idea and scored a $500 loan to build his first batch, which he sold in 90 minutes.While the Slinky was discovered by accident, tons of government dollars worth of research were poured into Silly Putty. Silly Putty was born out of desperation during World War II. In 1943, the wartime rubber shortage was so bad that the government asked private companies to create a synthetic rubber substitute. Japanese forces had invaded rubber producing nations, limiting American access to the material. As a result, the U.S. military requested the private sector to create an alternative for the rubber used in boots and tires. General Electric had a whole team of scientists throw together every chemical they could think of in hopes that it would create something rubber-like. In 1943, James Wright, an engineer with General Electric, developed the putty from boric acid and silicone oil. This squishy mixture proved to have surprising qualities: It bounced and stretched, it would not stick and it only melted at very high temperatures. Things were looking up until someone pointed out that you can't make tires out of something with the malleability of wet chewing gum, even if it can totally copy the newspaper.While the material had no practical uses, it caught-on very quickly as a novelty. It was so useless at replacing rubber that GE tried to send it to scientists around the world in hopes that someone, anyone, could figure out something to do with it. Eventually, a toy manufacturer mentioned that little kids will pretty much play with anything you give them. Silly Putty became particularly popular after Peter Hodgson, who had first marketed the putty for a store in New Haven, recognized that people liked the goo for its unique properties -- it stretches and bounces but can be easily snapped into pieces. Hodgson began targeting children in the Silly Putty ads and selling it in the now-famous egg-shaped container. The rest is history.Finally, there's Walter "Fred" Morrison, the patron saint of hipsters.Fred, like most other college kids in the 1930s, spent a great deal of time throwing around pie pans from the Frisbie Baking Company. But it wasn't until he joined the Air Force that he learned about aerodynamics and he realized he was doing science during those pan-flinging sessions.So, Fred took what he learned about basic aerodynamics from the Air Force and made a prototype of a better flying disc, that didn't have bits of pie crust stuck to it. And instead of tin, he went with plastic. He dubbed his creation the "Pluto Platter," which was ultimately renamed the "Frisbee" and went on to provide hardcore leaping motivation for extreme college kids everywhere.Super GlueDate invented: 1951Super Glue was inadvertently first created by Harry Coover and Fred Joyner, Tennessee-based employees of Eastman Kodak, in 1951. At the time, they were looking to find a substance that could be used as a heat-resistant coating for jet cockpits. But not until seven years later, in 1958, did Super Glue, which did not need heat or pressure for the adhesive to work, hit the market. The product never made its acknowledged inventor, Coover, wealthy. The product eventually had both medical and military uses — it could be used in medical procedures and was used to treat wounded troops during the Vietnam War.***Edit to reflect someone who blocked me's comments which don't really make a lot of sense, especially given that so many answers were already written over a month ago.Are the products worth what the military spends developing it? It depends. Are you talking about Slinkies or the Internet? Are you talking about panty hose or modern aviation? Are you talking about vaccines or antibiotics? Oops. Guess both those last two were worth it. If you think about this rationally, some percentage of everything fails. Even successful projects don't meet their creators best expectations. For example, I heard today that there are places on the internet where you can see naked ladies. I hope no one discovers that. Going beyond that, there are regular failures where projects need to be scrapped and wasted. If you think that private sector somehow doesn't do this, you should check out the Silicon Valley boneyard of startups that flopped, wasting billions of investor capital.Could that money be put to better use? There is no way to answer that. People value different things. You may value healthcare so you would argue that it could have been spent on giving you free stuff. Others may value science, engineering, jobs, technology, or a better world through increases in funding to virtually every field, so they would argue that a person wanting only a few handouts and luxuries doesn't quite a clear set of priorities.Could the private sector have developed it more efficiently? This point shows such a fundamental misunderstand of how the world works. The private sector are who makes all these technologies. The government, whether Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, or Department of Agriculture don't do anything as far as directly creating these technologies. They only communicate a need to industries so that those interested try to put out bids to get contracts. The military just provides the necessary start-up funding for projects and incentive for those companies to grow. If not for them, there would be no known need for things like nuclear energy research which led to so much more important things than a bomb.My Sources:Famous Products Invented for the Military10 brilliant DARPA inventions5 Inventions You Won't Believe Came From War10 Everyday Items We Can Thank the Military for Inventing9 Things Invented For Military Use That You Now Encounter In Everyday LifeMilitary inventions hit the civilian marketFamous Products Invented for the MilitaryThanks for reading!For more answers like this check out On War by Jon Davis and follow my blog War Elephant for more new content. Everything I write is completely independent research and is supported by fan and follower pledges. Please consider showing your support directly by checking out my Patreon support page here: Jon Davis on Patreon: Help support in writing Military Novels, Articles, and Essays.