How Technology Changed Warfare and the World

Posted on Jun 3 2011 - 5:31pm by Robert

The History of Technology and War

The story about how one of the famous Tunny code breaking machines had been brought back to life got us thinking about the role technology has played in war throughout the ages.

Many highly respected scientists and inventors have gone along with the idea that producing bigger and better arms will mean fewer wars. While this theory remains dubious there is no doubt that modern warfare owes much to the people who have come up with the machines, tools and devices which are used today.

Gunpowder Appears on the Scene

Small Gunpowder explosion (Credit: cool picture gallery)

Which piece of technology could be classed as being the first to have a significant effect on the outcome of battles? There is a strong case for including ancient tools or chariots but we have gone for gunpowder, for the huge evolution and lasting impact which it represented in warfare. There are various versions of who invented it and when but most historians give the credit to the Chinese around 1000 BC. The Mongol invaders brought it to Europe in the 13th century, although some reports say that Roger Bacon came up with something similar around the same time. It is an invention which remains indispensable for armies to this day.

The Tank Gets Rolled Out

The Modern Tank (Via: MOD)


There is a long history behind the invention of the tank, with Leonardo da Vinci coming up with a design centuries before one was finally built. HG Wells was another notable figure who thought of this kind of armoured vehicle as being feasible. It was first used in the First World War and several of the warring countries came up with their own version around the same time. The basic design has changed little since them although the engines and overall technology have improved enormously.

Aerial Warfare

The Second World War saw massive bombing campaigns in Europe, with many German and UK cities heavily damaged in carpet bombing attacks. Less successful in the long run was the earlier German zeppelin, with the Hindenburg disaster in the mid 1930s sealing the end of this airship’s era. Modern planes are among the most complex pieces of technology around. Radar was brought in before WWII but current models include many tricks such as radar absorbent paint to avoid being spotted, as well as being incredibly fast and manoeuvrable and having long flying ranges.

The Nuclear Age



We all know when nuclear bombs were first used, but the story behind their invention is a long and complicated one. The Manhattan Project was the US government’s scheme to come up these devices and even the scientists working on it were split over where the invention was a good thing or not. More than half a century on and the threat of a nuclear war has receded but it remains one of the great deterrents to a global war.

Non Military Uses

GPS was first developed for military use

Of course, many non military devices have resulted from the intensive investigation carried out in war technology. For example, computer engineering was an almost exclusively military field in the early years. Similarly, nuclear power and many other fields of military research have turned out to have civilian uses. Microwaves, the jet engine and modern communication methods all owe a large part of their existence to man’s need to invent more and better war technology.

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