Technological innovations have influenced society since ancient times. They changed modes of production and the ways people interpreted the world. The main technological innovations which altered society and changed the lives of all Americans completely are airplanes, automobiles, and the Internet. At the beginning of the 20th century, 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.
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On December 17, 1903, the first airplane lifted into the air. Turtledove and Greenberg (54) describe this event: 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. At the beginning of the 21st century, safe and affordable air travel dominate the travel industry; flying has become a popular sport and career for many young men and women. The Air Force has changed the way wars are fought, Americans would have walked on the moon, and an exploratory unmanned ship would head for Mars.
Henry Ford’s Model T, introduced in 1908 for $850, had an even bigger impact on the daily life of Americans. 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 (Turtledove and Greenberg 53). The public accepted his Tin Lizzie especially as the price 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.
The third important technological change was the development of the computer and the Internet. Nothing has changed the lives of ordinary citizens as much as the Internet. This link-up of millions of computers from universities, libraries, businesses, and individuals all over the globe has opened the world to people in unprecedented ways, and they have been instrumental in creating that new world through their ability to manipulate technology. The Internet has changed the way American families stay in touch with friends and relatives around the world; electronic mail, or e-mail, has replaced letter writing.
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. Advertising for a host of products, movies, and television shows appears on the Internet, alongside the information a person might seek on it, just as in a magazine, with headlines, pictures, sidebars, cartoons, and music, or announcements. Chat rooms are open twenty-four hours a day allowing international and national communication at any distance. There is virtually no restriction on such conversation (Turtledove and Greenberg 76). These examples show that technology is one of the most powerful historical tools which transform society and its way of living, communication and transportation, world views, and production.
Turtledove, H., Greenberg, M. M.H. Best Alternate History Stories of the 20th Century. Ballantine Bks.,U.S. 2001.