The Luckiest Generation
That ever has been or probably ever will be
1929 to 1945
Jack and Barbara Rairden
Alvin Toffler in his outstanding book “The Third Wave” (Ref. 6) describes the First Wave era: “To have begun sometime around 8000 BC and to have dominated the earth unchallenged until sometime around 1650-1750 A.D. From this moment on, the first wave lost momentum as Second Wave picked-up steam. Industrial civilization, the product of the Second Wave, then dominated the planet in its turn until it too crested”. He further states: “This latest historical turning point arrived in the United States during the decade beginning about 1955 – the decade that saw white-collar and service workers outnumber blue-collar workers for the first time. This was the same decade that saw the widespread introduction of the computer, commercial jet travel, the birth control pill, and many other high-impact innovations. It was precisely during this decade that the third wave began to gather its force in the United States. Today all the high technology nations are reeling from a collision between the third wave and the obsolete, encrusted economies and institutions of the second.
Horses were in widespread use in the colonization of North America from early in the 16th century until the development of the internal combustion engine fueled with gasoline in the late 19th century. Even today the horse is used for pleasure and to access remote undeveloped regions of the U. S.
The First Industrial Revolution has been defined in Ref. 7 as a period of major industrialization that took place during the late 1700s and early 1800s beginning in Great Britain, and quickly spread throughout the world. A very important contribution during this period was the invention of the steam engine by James Watt in Great Britain. In 1763 while working as an instrument maker at the University of Glasgow he was assigned the job of repairing a steam pumping device invented in 1699 by Thomas Savery to pump water from mines. Watt noted how inefficient it was and worked to develop his engine, which was fully developed by 1776 when it went into production.
In 1802, Richard Trevithick patented a "high pressure engine" and created the first steam-powered locomotive engine on rails. It was the first step toward an invention that would utterly change man's relationship to time and space.
George Stephenson and his son Robert built the first practical steam locomotive in 1814, which was used to haul coal. Many of the earliest locomotives for American railroads were imported from Great Britain. (Ref. 8)
The First Industrial Revolution evolved into the Second Industrial Revolution in the transition years between 1840 and 1870. Technological and economic progress continued with the increasing adoption of steam-powered transportation system including railways, boats and ships. There were rapid advancements in the large-scale manufacture of machine tools and the increasing use of machinery in steam-powered factories. (Ref. 6)
In his recently published book (Ref. 9), Dr. Robert J. Gordon describes in detail that the life-altering inventions in the 100-year period from 1870 to 1970 cannot be repeated. If so, the pattern of hoping and expecting that succeeding generations will be better off and more prosperous than they were may not be possible.
Of course it can be expected (or at least hoped) that these generations will deal successfully with the challenges they face, such as world population growth, global pollution and warming, and jobs creation in an increasing growth of robotization in manufacturing and even service industries.
It seems certain that the Digital Revolution which began in late 1950s to the late 1970s will continue unabated. The term includes the sweeping changes brought about by digital computing and communication technology. Central to this revolution is the mass production and widespread use of digital logic circuits, and its derived technologies, including the computer, digital cellular phone, and the Internet (Ref. 9).
A recently published book by Steve Case (Ref. 11) describes his view that we are entering the third wave of the internet that will revolutionize “real world sectors” such as healthcare, education, transportation, etc. In the first wave companies including AOL laid the foundation for consumers to connect to the Internet. In the second wave companies such as Google and Facebook created search and networking capabilities.