When it comes to technology, there are two main areas where ingenious solutions happen: either the well-equipped, ultra-modern labs or – like in the Archimedes’ case – a bathtub. Often enough, once they find their place and usage in one industry, they arrive to our day-to-day lives with flying colors. Think of cargo pants, jeeps or the almighty duct tape, for example. All of them were developed by military, for military. Other inventions have literally (or figuratively, for grammar Nazis) fallen from the sky. Bet you didn’t know the origins stories at least of some of them.



Sure, the notion that GPS wasn’t specifically designed for keeping fresh-drivers and first-time city visitors from getting lost is no shocker. But just let it sink in. We need a marvel of outer space exploration to help us get to the pizza place around the corner.

GPS technology is using satellites to triangulate a specific location’s latitude and longitude. The U.S. Department of Defense has been using this technology since the early 1990s before sharing it with civilians in 1996.

It is now commonly used in commercial aviation to ensure flights safety.

Ballpoint pen


Perhaps the most well-known aviation-related invention is attributed to Laszlo Biro, a Hungarian journalist and artist who lived in Argentina. Annoyed and frustrated with the fountains of ink in pens of his time, he invented the ball-point-pen in 1938.

Where does aviation come to the picture, you might ask? Well, the pen might not have been such a huge success weren’t it for one of his first customers - the RAF that placed a spectacular 30,000 unit order and distributed the pens among its pilots.   Luckily for us, the farewell-to-ink-stains pen did not stay in the cockpit and is used by virtually everyone these days.

The aviators


The fashion industry wouldn’t be same and the pilots wouldn't be anywhere even near as cool as they are today if it weren’t for the hip pilot shades – the aviators.

They were created by Ray Ban in the 1930s with the purpose to help pilots keep their vision in the bright sunlight. What was different from other glasses used at the time, was that they had huge, dark green lenses, similar to what we see today. No need to be a pilot to wear a pair, but hey – you do feel like one, don’t you?

Super Glue


Besides duct tape, super glue is another magic-based invention that can fix anything (except for a broken marriage). Rumor has it, superglue was even used in Vietnam to seal bleeding wounds. Different from many other types of glue, it could stick an elephant to the ceiling and do not require heat or pressure or centuries to dry.

In was invented during WWII with hope to make plastic gun sights, but didn’t quite work this way. Later on, the magic substance of super glue was remembered while making jet canopies heat resistant. Again, it didn’t quite work that way. But how it did work, was sticking two pieces together. Alas – the superglue was created and found!



Well ok, maybe aviation did not create mail itself, but rather the receiving-the-mail-while- it’s-still- relevant service. As you might imagine, sending mail by pigeon or putting it on a train has its limitations. For instance, one of the first airmail sent from San Francisco to New York in 1920 arrived in 33 hours and 20 minutes, that being 3 days faster than by train.

Insulin Pumps

Alan Levine, Creative commons license.

Insulin pumps are very practical and very down-to-earth medical appliances. Perhaps it is ironic that they were actually invented to use not on earth at all.

In fact, insulin pumps were created by NASA in late 1980s as means to monitor the astronauts’ health while on orbit. Being in extreme conditions like those in space requires a lot of creativity when it comes to health care. Therefore, insulin pumps were created to monitor such parameters as blood sugar level from a distance and react to the drop of it by releasing insulin. Soon enough, the device left spacecraft to reach diabetic people on Earth.

Scratch-resistant glass


Let’s face it – no material can be “scratch-resistant” enough when we talk about smartphones and their screens’ tendency to be scratched right after unboxing. But without NASA, not only our phones, but vital things like glasses would be 10 times more sensitive to scratch. So thanks, NASA, for saving our nerves, glasses and screens.