The U.S. government takes a lot of heat for its various success and failures, but you can’t deny one of its biggest successes: ARPANET. ARPANET later turned into the internet, as we know it today. There are plenty of web pages dedicated to private research and its success, but the U.S. government can take credit for some of the current technology we enjoy today. Here are projects and technology successes that you might not know are credited to the U.S. government.
1. GPS Systems
GPS has only been around for a couple of decades, but today, most people can’t even fathom the idea of using a paper map! They rely on GPS systems to track their location and tell them where to go while driving and even walking. What you probably don’t know is that GPS was first developed by the U.S. military to track satellites and missiles.
The U.S. military used GPS to pinpoint nuclear weapons that were often moved around secretly between states. The GPS that you use in your car is not as accurate, but it works well enough to get us to our intended destination, most of the time.
2. Fire-resistant Clothing
Do you ever wonder how firefighters can walk into a burning building without their clothing turning to ash? Prior to the 1960s, firefighters wore leather to protect them from heat and flames while on duty, but they, along with the rest of society, eventually learned that leather isn’t truly fire resistant.
After the Apollo I launch, during which a fire ignited on the launch pad and killed three astronauts, NASA decided to produce better fire-resistant clothing for its team. This research flowed to local fire departments that used the research to create the firefighter turnout gear we recognize today.
3. The Wii Controller and its Accelerometer
In the mid-2000s, Nintendo introduced its next-generation console, the Wii. It had one distinct feature that set it apart from its Microsoft and Sony competition. The Wii had controllers that could be used to interact with the console through movement such as swinging, shaking, and lifting. The movement would simulate the same movement in-game and gave gamers a real-world experience while playing.
The U.S. government didn’t invent the Wii, but it did invent the technology that was used in its controllers. It was originally developed for the military for weapon control and named an accelerometer.
4. The Bar Code System
The bar code system doesn’t need any explanation. If you’ve bought retail items at any location (even online), it probably has a barcode to track its price and help the manufacturer calculate inventory. Bar codes are also used for tracking shipments and assigning any product with a unique ID number.
The universal system was first created by the U.S. government and they created the first devices to read bar codes.
5. The Microchip
It has been decades since the first microchip powered a personal computer. Look at any digital device and it has a board with microchips installed. Microchips are the brains of any IoT (Internet of Things) device, personal computer, cell phone, modern TV, and almost any other system you can imagine.
The U.S. government first dove into microchip and microprocessor research in the 1950s when the Pentagon decided to improve missile tracking and guidance systems. The first company to work with the U.S. government on its research was Texas Instruments, which now is known mostly for its high-end calculators.
Drones are the newest of the technologies we’ve listed. The first drone was flown by the CIA in 2002. Now, drones are one of the favorites for RC (radio-controlled) hobbyists. We used to think of military drones as high-value, mission-critical machines, but now hobbyists can build a drone for as little as $99. Shop on Amazon and you’ll find several different drones for a few hundred dollars.
Plenty of private research and development teams create products useful to today’s society, but it’s obvious that the U.S. government has its fair share of wins in the technology field.
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