WW1 tech still in use today

Lots of the high tech gadgets and ideas we use today were developed for use in the Great War one hundred years ago. We round up the greatest technology inventions of WW1 which are still in use.
Topic: Hardware
1 of 9 ZDNet

If you think that the Amazon drone is a new invention, then think again.

We round up some of the coolest inventions from the 1914-1918 World War 1 that have improved and advanced to awesomeness over the last 100 years.

2 of 9 Wikimedia Commons


The Tank was based on caterpillar tracks which were invented in 1770. The first tank, or “landship” as it was then known, was constructed in September 1915 in the UK.

The first tanks were very unreliable mechanically and termed tanks due to their resemblance to steel water tanks.

It was first shown to the British Army in February 1916 followed by the French who deployed tanks at the front line in April 1917. The Allies manufactured several thousand tanks for use in the war whereas the Germans only deployed 20.

*** Correction***

They were called tanks because the crates they were shipped to France from England in were labeled "WATER TANKS" to confuse the Germans.  Not for any resemblance to an actual water tank.

H/T Roger Perkins

***Correction 2***

They were called Tanks because they were made in a water Tank factory in Lincoln, England. The first Tank was called Mother. 

H/T Buggsie



3 of 9 Wikimedia Commons

Air Traffic Control

Radio broadcasts were initially limited to short range due to design limitations. In 1911 vacuum-tube technology was introduced, which allowed radio broadcasts to be transmitted over a significantly longer range.

Usually the pilot had to land to deliver a message or drop messages from the plane. During the first World War, advancements in radio transmissions allowed ground staff to communicate with pilots in the air. Multiple planes in the air necessitated the introduction of an air traffic control system.

In 1921, Croydon Airport near London was the first airport in the world to introduce air traffic control. The Air Mail Radio Stations (AMRS) was created in 1922. The US Post Office used techniques developed by the Army in WW1 to direct and track movements of reconnaissance aircraft.



4 of 9 Dosits


The first hydrophone was invented by 1914 by Canadian Reginald Fessenden. He wanted to use it as a way to locate icebergs following the Titanic disaster. Unfortunately the device could only detect the distance from the object and not its direction.

The hydrophone was improved by Frenchman Paul Langevin and Russian Constantin Chilowsky. These improvements allowed the users to detect both direction and distance from the underwater object.

The device was first used successfully against U-boats in April 1916. The US further improved it so that the hydrophone could detect U-boats up to 25 miles away.


5 of 9 Museum of Technology

3D Imaging

Aerial 3D, or stereoscopic, photography was first used in 1912 by Frederick Charles Victor Laws. He flew a British dirigible for the Royal Air Force in the UK.

He discovered that photos taken with 60 percent overlap could form a stereoscopic 3D effect when the images were viewed in a stereoscope. This was used for aerial reconnaissance.



6 of 9 Old Magazine Articles

Artillery Motorcycle

The artillery motorcycle was invented by a Canadian and built in the US. The motorcycle was a light artillery vehicle which has the machine gun mounted on a sidecar chassis.


7 of 9 Keep Shooting

Gas Mask

Dr Cluny MacPearson, a Canadian invented the gas mask. He used a helmet, obtained from a German prisoner, a canvas hood with eyepieces and a breathing tube. The ensemble was treated with chemicals that would absorb chlorine gas.

This was considered to be the most important protective device of WW1.

8 of 9 Smithsonian


The first pilotless aircraft were built during World War I. In 1916 control of the drone was achieved using Sperry gyroscopes.

The aircraft was termed the flying bomb and intended for use as an aerial torpedo for the US Army in 1917.


9 of 9 Old Magazine Articles

Helium Balloon

A helium balloon was sent across French lines by balloon in May 1917. The balloon contained copies of President Wilson's message where he declared that the quarrel was "not with the German people but with the government".

Following the message drop, over 50 German soldiers crossed No Man's Land and surrendered.

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