The past two centuries have changed the Western world and the way people live. Technological and social changes transformed the traditional way of life and lifestyles, traditions and values of Western society. Three events that had a great and profound impact on the world were a mechanical change (development of an airplane and car), World War II, and the development of the Internet.
Two events in the early years of the 20th century changed the lives of all people completely. Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first powered airplane flight, and Henry Ford built the first automobile that members of the general public could afford. With Orville lying face down on the lower wing and Wilbur running alongside holding one wingtip, the Wright brothers’ twelve-horsepower motorized craft rolled down a monorail on the cold, windy beach at Kill Devil Hill near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and lifted smoothly into the air, flying about ten feet off the ground for twelve seconds (Davies 780). The date was December 17, 1903. By the end of the century, safe and affordable air travel would dominate the travel industry, flying would be a popular sport–and career–for many young men and women, the Air Force would have changed the way wars were fought, Americans would have walked on the moon, and an exploratory unmanned ship would head for Mars. These inventions did not have a great impact on political but changed social and economic relations: they improved connections between different geographical regions and established new industries: car manufacturing and plane manufacturing, the gasoline industry, and the travel industry (Davies 254). Henry Ford’s Model T, introduced in 1908 for $850, had an even bigger impact on the daily life of people and especially on the lives of teens. Aiming to make a good car that was inexpensive to produce and run, Ford predicted that “about everybody would have one” eventually, making him probably one of the few successful prophets of modern life. The public loved his Tin Lizzie, or flivver, especially as the price gradually dropped to $290 in 1923. Americans had bought more than fifteen million Model Ts before 1927. The automobile changed American work and leisure, especially in rural areas where it gave farm wives the option of driving to the nearest store for canned goods and teens the opportunity to meet other teens away from their homes and families. The popularity of the automobile, and the freedom this machine gave the young, was the first dramatic and irrevocable instance of twentieth-century American teenagers’ separation from their parents’ influence, beginning gradually but increasing sharply throughout the coming decades (Davies 781).
World War II changed the values and traditions of the Western World. the 1940s, was a decade that seems to split neatly down the middle, divided by the atomic blast at Hiroshima on August 6, 1945, which, for good or ill, ushered the United States into the nuclear age. Awestruck by the power of the atomic bomb, they realized its potential to change their world forever (Davies 1058). As the extent of Adolf Hitler’s persecution of the European Jews was revealed, they struggled to absorb the news, or disbelieved it, or blotted it out–just as adults did. People shared in the wartime patriotism and seriousness, and then in the postwar euphoria and economic boom, just as they shared family and community life with adults. World War II ruined the economic, political, and social system of the Western World and the global peace. It took several decades to rebuild the economic and social life of people. Politically, World War II demanded new international relationships and led to a new division of power and peace. Such inventions as automobiles and airplanes made the war a global one involving all nations and states (Davies 1060).
Nothing has changed life–indeed all life in the Nineties–as much as the Internet. This link-up of millions of computers from universities, libraries, businesses, and individuals all over the globe has, in only a few years, opened the world to teens in unprecedented ways, and they have been instrumental in creating that new world through their ability to manipulate the technology. The Internet has changed the way families stay in touch with friends and relatives around the world; electronic mail, or e-mail, has replaced letter writing (Poole et al 93). Similar to a car and plane, the Internet created new industries and improved communication between people around the globe. It changed the economic and social life of people, their communication patterns, and business relations. Similar to World War II, it ruined “old” communication patterns and brought new values and traditions. The Internet is useful for information of all kinds: compact disc encyclopedias of general information, information about travel, facts about potential colleges, television schedules, and literally millions of web pages on every conceivable topic. Politically, the Internet created a new environment and new world for all global citizens. Advertising for a host of products, movies, and television shows appears on the Internet, alongside the information you might seek on it, just as in a magazine, with headlines, pictures, sidebars, cartoons, and music, or announcements (Poole et al 87).
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McKay, J. P., Hill, B. D., Buckler, J. A History of Western Society. Houghton Mifflin Company; 7 edition, 2002.
Poole, H., Schuyler, T., Senft, Th. M., Moschovitis, Ch. History of the Internet: A Chronology, 1843 to the Present. ABC-Clio Inc, 1999.