By constructing complex pieces of electronic equipment that had to be small, rugged, and reliable, radar engineering also set the foundations for modern electronics, especially television. Radar signals could also be used for navigation, as a ship or airplane could measure its distance from several radar bacons to “triangulate” its position. A system for radar navigation, called LORAN (long-range navigation) was the precursor to today’s satellite-based GPS technology.
The military found other uses for radar. Meteorologists, for example, could track storms with this new technology—a crucial skill to have when planning major military operations like D-Day. When weapons designers discovered a way to place tiny radar sets onto artillery shells, the proximity fuse was invented. These new fuses would explode when they neared their targets. By the end of the war, proximity fuses had became a critical component in many anti-aircraft shells.
A REAL SHOT IN THE ARM
World War II also saw advances in medical technology. Penicillin was not invented during the war, but it was first mass produced during the war, the key to making it available to millions of people (during World War II it was mostly used to treat the venereal diseases gonorrhea and syphilis, which had been the scourge of armies for thousands of years).