7 Surprising Technologies From World War I - InformationWeek

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6/28/2014
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7 Surprising Technologies From World War I

WWI marked the first time technology was widely used in war. Look back 100 years at early drones, wearables, and other technologies that had lasting influence.
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Tech from the trenches in WWI
One hundred years ago -- June 28, 1914 -- a series of events began leading up to the First World War. A human tragedy of enormous scale, the world after WWI was much different than the world before. Among other distinctions, WWI arguably brought us the first technological war -- a war in which the race to develop new weapons was as feverish as that to develop new tactics. In a war that saw battle lines move little in the space of two to four years, and in which small movements in those lines came at a cost of tens of thousands of lives per meter, military leaders were desperate for any technology that could deliver even the smallest advantage over their enemies.

As is the case with most times of great change, some of the developments involved evolution of existing technology, some were based on re-application of technologies already in use for other purposes, and some were brand-spanking new developments in science and technology. We've examined all three types in this slideshow, and we think that the combination will reveal some surprises for most readers.

It's easy to believe, for example, that WWI saw the first significant use of mobile electrical devices. But if you thought that aerial drones are a product of the GoPro generation, then you're in for a surprise. It's possible you'll also be caught off guard by some of the things that were first carried in the First World War: It's one thing to coordinate the actions of huge groups with a central tech repository. It's quite another to put the means of that coordination on the arm of every team leader in the organization.

Even at a century's remove, the utter horror of this war can't be forgotten. Some of our peeks into the technologies of World War I carry a light tone, but our levity is reserved for the technologies (and the forms they took) rather than the sacrifices of those who served, or for the families, nations -- and nations that were never to be again -- that they left behind.

The political maps of the world were redrawn by what seemed to be a simple assassination a hundred years ago. Whether we stop to think of it often or not, our lives and the technology that surrounds us were similarly changed. While 100 years is a long time in tech terms, some of the technologies that made their debut (or became widespread) during the First World War continue to shape our world today. Let's take a look back at them.

(Source: Public Domain)

Curtis Franklin Jr. is Senior Editor at Dark Reading. In this role he focuses on product and technology coverage for the publication. In addition he works on audio and video programming for Dark Reading and contributes to activities at Interop ITX, Black Hat, INsecurity, and ... View Full Bio

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RobPreston
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RobPreston,
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6/30/2014 | 9:20:01 AM
Tactics Didn't Keep Up
As Curt suggests, the military tactics during WWI didn't keep pace with the technology advances -- trench warfare in an era of nerve gas, advanced artillery, and aerial offensives. In that sense, WWI was like the US Civil War a half century earlier, when lines of men marched forward to face automatic weapons.
Joe Stanganelli
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Joe Stanganelli,
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6/29/2014 | 10:54:39 PM
"War: What is it good for?"
As terrible as war is, it's amazing the innovations war can inspire.

Not WWI, but I recently read about how crazy glue was developed/adapted to quickly seal soldiers' wounds on the battlefield in Vietnam.

Warning: You probably don't want to try this at home.  A special formulation is used for medical purposes, and differs from the typical "household" crazy glue/super glue -- which can burn the skin.
impactnow
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impactnow,
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6/29/2014 | 2:42:08 PM
imagination = reality
It is terrific that technology has made our imagined creations a reality. What will the next 100 years hold!
Ariella
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Ariella,
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6/29/2014 | 2:10:25 PM
Re: Animal Tech Goes to War
@Lufu they still relied on pigeons even in WW II. Miadenform even made a special outfit for the birds

 

 

 
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