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Creative destruction

Considering how resolutely we've gone about waging it, a great deal of everyday technology has evolved from something invented to aid in warfare. TOI-Crest lists a few big inventions that owe their origins to what we now call 'defence production'

Canned Food

Back when Napoleon was terrorising Europe his commanders realised that armies really did march on their stomachs and advertised an astounding 12, 000 franc award for a way to preserve food, cheaply. Tinned food, invented by a canny French brewer, was soon feeding French troops who tore up the countryside until their little emperor himself got canned after Waterloo.


The tech that now makes us blindly drive cars into other people's walls was fi rst designed for the US Navy, which needed such an all-weather navigation system for its submarines to truly spook the Soviets. The satellite-based NAVSTAR system was born in the 1960s and announced for public use by the US government two decades later, after a Korean airliner strayed into Soviet airspace and got shot down.

Rockets, The Space Age

Even before World War II formally ended, a battle to lure brilliant Nazi rocket scientists broke out between the US and the Soviet Union who knew the potential of this nascent technology. The Space Race began a decade later as both countries led the way in space exploration by launching all manner of things atop bigger and better rockets while piling up bigger and better missiles on the side. From satellites to planetary probes to the moon landings, it was the Cold War that truly propelled us into the Space Age.


From the most famous ancient example (the Roman road system) to more than a few modern ones (Germany's autobahn, the US's interstate highway system) broad, smooth roads have always been what rulers have laid while preparing to defend the realm, or steamroller another.

The Internet

The modern computer owes a great deal to machines like ENIAC and Colossus, used by Allied forces in Word War II. The internet began life in the 1960s as an American defence project called ARPANET which sought to make computers 'talk' to each other.


Soon after launching us into the winged age, the Wright Brothers hawked their invention not to awestruck millionaires looking to head to their next golf game but to the US Army. In fact, many major advances in aviation have come from the military. From the jet engine to radar (which also helped spawn the microwave oven) and from the helicopter to composites, military needs have spurred many an inventor's flights of fancy.

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