19 Everyday Items That Started As Military Inventions

Digital cameras

19 Everyday Items That Started As Military Inventions

Do you like taking family photos, recording your pets’ shenanigans, or making selfies with your smartphone camera? Most of us do, and most of us also don’t know that this entertaining and essential part of all present-day smartphones got started as military tech. The first digital cameras were made for aerial and space surveillance of enemy objects.

These now-ubiquitous devices were developed at the peak of the Cold War in the 1960s and 70s. As frequently happens, the technology later became available to the public. The first digital cameras available to the public were sold in the 1980s, and it wasn’t until the 2000s that the first mobile phones were equipped with digital cameras.

Kleenex (and Kotex)

19 Everyday Items That Started As Military Inventions

World War I prompted the creation of two sanitary items sold and used everywhere. It all began when the company Kimberly-Clark manufactured crepe paper filters for gas masks. In the 1920s, when gas mask filters were no longer in demand, the company updated its paper innovation to market “Kotex” pads for women.

A few years later – in 1924 – Kimberly-Clark expanded its range of products by making thinner and softer tissues called “Kleenex.” Initially, they were sold as makeup removal tissues, but consumers started using these wipes to blow their noses. Kimberly-Clark soon realized this and started marketing “Kleenex” as a disposable version of handkerchiefs.


19 Everyday Items That Started As Military Inventions

The invention of the walkie-talkie is credited to Canadian Don Hings, who developed the first one in 1937, even though it must be noted that many similar portable radios were developed by others at around the same time. Pilots used Hings’ device to communicate during flight.

19 Everyday Items That Started As Military Inventions

SCR-300 US military backpack “walkie talkie” from World War II
With the outbreak of World War II, soldiers soon caught on to the benefits of portable radios, even though these first models of walkie-talkies were 17 inches in length and weighed 5 pounds, so they can hardly be considered mobile by modern standards. The walkie-talkie entered the home and became popular among adults and kids in the 1970s.

GPS technology

19 Everyday Items That Started As Military Inventions

Most of us can hardly imagine daily life without a GPS navigator. So it seems unbelievable how it’s been less than a century since this technology has been available. The first NAVSTAR Global Positioning System (GPS) technology was developed in the 1960s by the US Department of Defence. This technology used satellites to determine one’s location by measuring their distance from 3 satellites orbiting the Earth.

GPS became fully operational only in 1994, but people were already excited about it then, as they have seen the technology in action during the Cold War. Needless to say, GPS is widely used in all kinds of consumer products today – from cars to phones.

Packaged salad mixes

19 Everyday Items That Started As Military Inventions

For some of these inventions – like GPS or walkie-talkies – it makes sense that they were developed by the military. But other inventions are less obviously related to the army. The perfect example of the latter is the packaged salad mix that’s easily available at your local supermarket.

The technology that makes these packaged greens different is the so-called “modified atmosphere packaging,” which delays the spoiling and ripening of the salad greens. This technology was first developed in the 1960s. The US Navy worked together with Whirlpool to package and send fresh vegetables to US soldiers in Vietnam.

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