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From military model to market forces

Updated: 2014-10-28 08:17
By Peng Yining (China Daily)

Wartime necessity drives technology

Throughout history, warfare has presented unique challenges that have prompted the development of new technologies. As far back as the Roman Empire, military necessity drove the rise of technology and innovations that have transcended their original applications, such as the Roman road system, which was originally built to facilitate the transport of troops, but civilians were the ultimate beneficiaries.

Five similar innovations:

1. The Internet: The earliest form of the Internet first saw the light of day in 1962, when the US Defense Department's Advanced Research Projects Agency laid the groundwork of ARPANET, a revolutionary "packet-switching" (data communications) system and created a network of geographically separate computers that were able to exchange information.

2. Global Positioning System: GPS, also the brainchild of the US Defense Department, was first used in the 1970s to overcome the limitations of previous military navigation systems. Today, GPS provides secure, commercial channels for accurate navigation.

3. Duck, or duct, tape: During World War II, an adhesive tape was developed for use as a sealant for ammunition cases. Nicknamed "duck tape" because of its ability to repel water, the material was easy to tear into strips, making it quick and convenient to use. Following the war, the tape entered civilian use as a way of holding ducts together, and evolved from a brandless, green army tape to the familiar gray duct tape we know today.

4. Cryptography: Cryptography has a long history of military use, from Julius Caesar's letter-shifting ciphers to the famous Enigma machine used to encode the Germany army's communications during World War II. Now, with the assistance of highly developed mathematical theory and computer science, modern cryptography is the core of secure communications in banking, e-commerce, and many other applications.

5. Nursing: The foundations of professional nursing were laid by Florence Nightingale, a British nurse, during the Crimean War (1853-56). Subsequently, every major conflict prompted dramatic developments in the field, and the modern system of nursing employed in civilian hospitals across the world today evolved from the practices used in battlefield hospitals.

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