Gadgets the Pentagon Made — From the Microwave to the New iPhone

First generation mouse

Image credit: DARPA

By Spencer Ackerman and Noah Shachtman

The cool voice assistant that runs on the iPhone 4S? Years ago, someone thought what Apple calls Siri would be a valuable tool for the military. Come to think of it, most of the technology we use — whether to cook our food, figure out directions, or gawk at adorable pictures of animals — was in some way designed to help, however tangentially, America go to war.

Armchair sociologists like to ponder the distance between military and civilian life. In the tech world, at least, they’re not so far apart. Innovations that began with the U.S.’ well-funded defense establishment almost always filter down into commercial, mundane usage. Sometimes in unexpected ways. Here are some of our favorite examples. Siri, can you think of some more?


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