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9 Things Invented For Military Use That You Now Encounter In Everyday Life

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A surprising number of military inventions have found their ways into our civilian lives. Here are just a few military-turned-everyday items.

1. GPS

When 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 in the early 1990s. At President Clinton’s behest, the system became available to civilian users in 1996.

2. Freeze drying

Dippin’ 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.

3. EpiPen

EpiPens, 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.

4. Cargo pants

British 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.

5. Duct tape

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In 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.

6. Jerrycan

You 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.

7. Jeep

The 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.

8. Computers

ENIAC, 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.

9. Microwave

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In 1945, an American scientist realized accidentally 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. This technology was used to construct the first microwave oven within the next 2 years.

Apple Wants to Patent a Keyboard You’re Allowed to Spill Coffee On

In the future, eating and drinking near your computer keyboard might not be such a dangerous game. On March 8, Apple filed a patent application for a keyboard designed to prevent liquids, crumbs, dust, and other “contaminants” from getting inside, Dezeen reports.

Apple has previously filed several patents—including one announced on March 15—surrounding the idea of a keyless keyboard that would work more like a trackpad or a touchscreen, using force-sensitive technology instead of mechanical keys. The new anti-crumb keyboard patent that Apple filed, however, doesn't get into the specifics of how the anti-contamination keyboard would work. It isn’t a patent for a specific product the company is going to debut anytime soon, necessarily, but a patent for a future product the company hopes to develop. So it’s hard to say how this extra-clean keyboard might work—possibly because Apple hasn’t fully figured that out yet. It’s just trying to lay down the legal groundwork for it.

Here’s how the patent describes the techniques the company might use in an anti-contaminant keyboard:

"These mechanisms may include membranes or gaskets that block contaminant ingress, structures such as brushes, wipers, or flaps that block gaps around key caps; funnels, skirts, bands, or other guard structures coupled to key caps that block contaminant ingress into and/or direct containments away from areas under the key caps; bellows that blast contaminants with forced gas out from around the key caps, into cavities in a substrate of the keyboard, and so on; and/or various active or passive mechanisms that drive containments away from the keyboard and/or prevent and/or alleviate containment ingress into and/or through the keyboard."

Thanks to a change in copyright law in 2011, the U.S. now gives ownership of an idea to the person who first files for a patent, not the person with the first working prototype. Apple is especially dogged about applying for patents, filing plenty of patents each year that never amount to much.

Still, they do reveal what the company is focusing on, like foldable phones (the subject of multiple patents in recent years) and even pizza boxes for its corporate cafeteria. Filing a lot of patents allows companies like Apple to claim the rights to intellectual property for technology the company is working on, even when there's no specific invention yet.

As The New York Times explained in 2012, “patent applications often try to encompass every potential aspect of a new technology,” rather than a specific approach. (This allows brands to sue competitors if they come out with something similar, as Apple has done with Samsung, HTC, and other companies over designs the company views as ripping off iPhone technology.)

That means it could be a while before we see a coffee-proof keyboard from Apple, if the company comes out with one at all. But we can dream.

[h/t Dezeen]

Google Adds 'Wheelchair Accessible' Option to Its Transit Maps

Google Maps is more than just a tool for getting from Point A to Point B. The app can highlight the traffic congestion on your route, show you restaurants and attractions nearby, and even estimate how crowded your destination is in real time. But until recently, people who use wheelchairs to get around had to look elsewhere to find routes that fit their needs. Now, Google is changing that: As Mashable reports, the company's Maps app now offers a wheelchair accessible option to users.

Anyone with the latest version of Google Maps can access the new feature. After opening the app, just enter your starting point and destination and select the public transit choices for your trip. Maps will automatically show you the quickest routes, but the stations it suggests aren't necessarily wheelchair accessible.

To narrow down your choices, hit "Options" in the blue bar above the recommended routes then scroll down to the bottom of the page to find "Wheelchair accessible." When that filter is checked, your list of routes will update to only show you bus stops and subways that are also accessible by ramp or elevator where there are stairs.

While it's a step in the right direction, the new accessibility feature isn't a perfect navigation tool for people using wheelchairs. Google Maps may be able to tell you if a station has an elevator, but it won't tell you if that elevator is out of service, an issue that's unfortunately common in major cities.

The wheelchair-accessible option launched in London, New York, Tokyo, Mexico City, Boston, and Sydney on March 15, and Google plans to expand it to more transit systems down the road.

[h/t Mashable]


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