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Technological advancements claim roots in WWII era

By Bryan Dean | Staff Writer Published: November 28, 2007
The race to win a war often leads to rapid advances in technology, and not just better weapons.

Synthetic tires, weather radar images, laptop computers, modern medicine and the Apollo moon landings all can trace their roots to World War II technology.

Radar — Radar uses electromagnetic waves to track everything from enemy planes to thunderstorms. Radar operators track the time it takes for the waves to hit an object and be bounced back to determine the object’s direction, speed and altitude. The technology behind radar, which stands for radio detection and ranging, was developed in the decades before the war. But the British demonstrated its value and perfected radar systems during the Battle of Britain, using radar to give their fighter planes advanced warning of German bomber attacks.

Penicillin — Researchers began using penicillin to fight infection in World War II with stunning success. The antibiotic drastically reduced the number of deaths and amputations caused by infection.

Jet engines — The first successful jet aircraft was the German ME262 Messerschmitt, a fighter introduced in the closing stages of the war. Although it came too late to help the German war effort, the plane was the forerunner of modern jet aircraft.

Computers — The Electronic Numerical Integrator and Computer, or ENIAC, is widely considered the first true electronic computer. It was designed to make U.S. Army artillery more accurate. Other forerunners of the modern computer were also developed during the war, including the British Colossus, which was used to decode encrypted German messages.

Atomic energy — The lasting image of atomic energy in World War II is the mushroom cloud over Hiroshima.

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