19 Everyday Items That Started As Military Inventions

Microwave ovens

19 Everyday Items That Started As Military Inventions

In 1945, Percy Spencer, an engineer at Raytheon, a company manufacturing mostly military technology, noted that the radar vacuum tube he was working on at the time did something very interesting: it melted the chocolate bar in his pocket. This sparked his interest, and he aimed the “radar” at other foods, all of which got heated rapidly. Spencer realized that microwave radiation was responsible for the heating, which led him to patent the technology and develop the first microwave oven.

19 Everyday Items That Started As Military Inventions

This first microwave was nothing like the countertop one in your kitchen; it weighed 750 lbs and was almost 6 feet tall. The first countertop microwaves were manufactured in 1965 and all of them were, interestingly, called “RadaRange,” which was likely an homage to the radar origins of the microwave oven.

Electric razors

19 Everyday Items That Started As Military Inventions

The dry electric shaver wasn’t designed for the military per se, but its inventor was a military man – Colonel Jacob Shick. The idea came to him when he was looking for gold in Alaska and British Columbia in the 1910s and injured himself. As he was recovering, he had difficulties shaving, so he created a rough draft of an electric shaver.

His initial plan was rejected, and Shick had to put his invention on hold when he reported for military duty in World War I. However, on May 13, 1930, his updated draft of the electricity-powered dry shaver received an official patent. During the first decades of production, the shavers weren’t particularly popular. But in the late 1940s, the business exploded, and Shick later sold his invention to Norelco.

Canned food

19 Everyday Items That Started As Military Inventions

Not all canned food is particularly tasty, but it’s always there, sitting in your pantry. It’s ready to fill a growling stomach when you’re low on groceries but need a quick meal. Once again, we have the military to thank for this convenient type of food. Actually, canned food transformed warfare and ended a previously pervasive problem of food shortages in the army.

The story of canned food traces back to France in the early 1800s. Napoleon Bonaparte issued an order in which he offered a large cash prize for anyone who would find a way to preserve food for a long time. A man named Nicolas Appert took up the challenge and discovered that cooking food in a sealed jar allowed it to stay fresh for months. Monsieur Appert is now known as the “Father of Canning.”

Freeze-dried foods

19 Everyday Items That Started As Military Inventions

Let’s continue the food preservation theme a little longer. Apart from inventing packaged salad mix, the US Army, NASA, and Whirlpool worked together on a brand new way to preserve foods, this time – for space.

The demands of space exploration didn’t allow for heavy, liquid-filled canned foods to be brought on board. The proposed solution was freeze-dried foods. Freeze-dried rations were indeed consumed in space, but only during the first Gemini and Apollo missions.


19 Everyday Items That Started As Military Inventions

Even though no single individual is credited with the invention of the computer, we know that the history of simple mechanical computing devices reaches back to the 19th century. That being said, the first electronic computers were created only in the 20th century.

In fact, all modern computers are derived from technology developed by the US Army Research Laboratory. Understandably, these first computers were used for military purposes. In fact, the predecessor of the Army Research Laboratory, called the Ballistics Research Laboratory, started research into computing as far back as the 1930s.

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