Was This Invention Civilian or Military?

By: Jacqueline Samaroo
Image: pederk / E+ / Getty Images

About This Quiz

Are you going to "invent" the correct answers?

Virtually all of the modern conveniences that we use in our day-to-day lives were at one point in history nothing more than a thought in the minds of brilliant men and women. Just mere decades ago, many of the things that we take for granted today were thought to be impossible -- from mechanical marvels like computers and jet airplanes to seemingly simple things like canned foods and zippers! However, inventions like these were not always created by civilians or during times of peace. In fact, conflict and war have often fueled the progress of science and technology. 

In this quiz, we've collected a handful of the most notable and also seemingly simple inventions from the past century or so. It is your job to see if you can correctly guess whether they were created by people in the military or by ordinary civilians. A lot of these military inventions have been adopted for commercial use by everyday citizens, so don't be fooled! Let's jump right in and get started! 

Digital photography is a military invention that was first developed in the 1960s. This technology was originally used in spy satellites that were launched by the United States and the Soviet Union.

The zipper is a civilian invention that was created by Whitcomb L. Judson. It was officially introduced in 1893. The inventor originally intended for it to be primarily used on shoes.

The Super Soaker was developed and introduced in 1982 by Air Force and NASA engineer Lonnie Johnson. The idea for the toy came to him while he was performing experiments related to thermal energy transfer engines and refrigeration systems.

Canned food is a military invention that was created by Nicolas Appert and officially introduced in 1809. He was incentivized to develop the process by the French government, which at the time was fighting in the Napoleonic Wars. Napoleon Bonaparte offered a reward to anyone who could create an effective method of preserving large amounts of food.

Spandex is a civilian invention that was developed and introduced in 1959 by Joseph Shivers. It became popular thanks to its being stronger and more durable than rubber.

Gary Starkweather, a civilian, invented the laser printer while working at Xerox as a researcher. He developed and introduced the technology in 1969.

Ballistic missiles are a military invention, first developed and introduced in the 1930s and 1940s by the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany. Today, ballistic missiles have several uses outside the military, such as the launch of satellites (weather, GPS, communication, etc.) and for space exploration.

Radar was first created for Britain's Royal Air Force and introduced in the 1930s. It was intended to be used as a means of air defense and for early warning against air raids.

The invention of the airbag is credited to John W. Hetrick, who patented an early airbag design in 1953. He was inspired to create it after his family was involved in an automotive accident.

Sliced bread was created by Otto Frederick Rohwedder in 1928. For short period of time in 1943, the United States tried to impose a ban on sliced bread as part of the resource conservation effort during World War II.

Nuclear technology was developed in the 1940s by the Allied Forces during World War II. While destruction was the original intent, more peaceful benefits, such as nuclear power and nuclear medicine, have arisen as well.

The video game console is a civilian invention, created by Ralph H. Baer. His Magnavox Odyssey was introduced in 1972. Compared with the modern consoles that are a part of a billion-dollar industry today, the Magnavox Odyssey was extremely simple.

The jerrycan was designed by Vinzenz Grünvogel and developed in Germany in 1937. It was widely used by German forces during World War II, and the design was recreated by the Allied Forces.

Aviator sunglasses were created by Bausch & Lomb in 1936. While they are a popular fashion item today, they were originally intended to be used by pilots.

The home security system is a civilian invention that was developed in 1966 by Marie Van Brittan Brown. To this day, her patent is still being cited by other inventors and innovators.

The United States military first started researching jetpack technology in the 1950s. While jetpacks haven’t had much practical use on Earth so far, the astronaut propulsion unit is a similar device that is useful for spacewalks.

General Mills patented the first microwave popcorn bag in 1981. However, making popcorn on stovetops had already been widely done since the 19th century.

The turbojet was patented by Royal Air Force cade Frank Whittle in 1932. Originally designed for use in military aircraft, jet engines are widely used in airliners today.

Kevlar was invented in 1965 by chemist Stephanie Kwolek. Today, this super-strength materials most widely known for its protective capabilities and its use by military and law enforcement, but it was actually first used as a replacement for steel in racing tires.

Night vision technology was first used and developed by the military during World War II. Today, it is also readily available for civilian use for surveillance and low-light photography.

The iconic Jeep was first produced in 1941 for the U.S. Army and Allied forces. It served as a military utility vehicle in World War II and was the first mass-produced four-wheel-drive car in the world.

Arthur Fry came up with the idea for Post-it notes in 1974, but the product didn't hit the public until 1980. Post-it notes owe their success to a reusable adhesive material developed by Spencer Silver in 1968.

The autoinjector is a military invention that was developed as a means protection against chemical warfare. Today, EpiPens (epinephrine autoinjectors) are widely used as an emergency treatment for anaphylactic reaction.

Electronic digital computers were developed through the first half of the 20th century primarily for military purposes. Compared to the handheld computers that we have today, these early devices were absolutely massive.

The barcode was developed and introduced in 1952 by Norman Joseph Woodland and Bernard Silver. For several years, the invention did not experience any critical success; however, popularity skyrocketed when they began to be utilized in store checkout systems.

Drones (unmanned aerial vehicles) were originally developed for the military, and the military's use of this technology has stayed strong. But drones are also used by civilians for filmmaking, recreation and surveillance.

Superglue was invented in 1942 by Harry Coover Jr. It was an accidental discovery that came about while he and his team were searching for materials to create clear plastic gun sights.

The firewall is a civilian invention. The first generation of firewall technology was developed by William Cheswick and Steven Bellovin in 1988 while working at AT&T Bell Labs.

The walkie-talkie was created as a communication tool for infantry during World War II. Today, they are used widely by civilians for business, recreation and safety.

The first handheld electronic calculator was invented in 1967 by a development team at Texas Instruments. This early machine could do basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

The lint roller was invented in 1956 by Nicholas McKay and his wife, Helen. He came up with the concept after he had used masking tape and a paper roll to clean his suit before chaperoning his son's high school dance.

The modern sanitary napkin evolved from an early invention by Benjamin Franklin. His disposable pads were meant to stop wounded soldiers from bleeding out.

The zipper storage bag was patented by Robert W. Vergobbi in 1954. Today they are widely used to keep food fresh, but this function wasn’t popularized until 1957, when fifth-grader Robert Lejeune demonstrated the product's food-storage capabilities as part of a science project.

Tupperware was introduced by Earl Silas Tupper in 1946. The product's early success is largely due to the Tupperware parties that Brownie Wise, a Florida housewife, would organize.

Dr. Charles R. Drew started the first large-scale blood banks during World War II. Charles Drew is also notable for having protested racial segregation in the donation of blood, since there was no scientific foundation for the practice to stand on.

The Global Positioning System, or GPS, was launched in 1973. While it has a wide variety of civilian uses, GPS is actually owned by the United States government and operated by the United States Air Force.

Duct tape is a military invention that came on the scene in 1942. It was originally used during World War II to seal ammunition cases and repair military equipment, and its usefulness has only grown since then.

The WD-40 formula was developed by the Rocket Chemical Company in 1953. It is widely used in mechanical repair and assembly to protect against rust and corrosion.

While the pocket watch had long been a popular accessory, the wristwatch only came into use during World War I, in the early 20th century. Soldiers used them to synchronize maneuvers without alerting the enemy to their plans.

Sidney Rosenthal's 1953 marker pen design consisted of a glass tube of ink with a felt wick. This design developed into the beloved "Magic Marker" used by kids (and adults) around the world today.

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