Every decade has its own unique traits. The ’70s were famous for disco and big hair and the ’20s were a time of great social change. Two decades, however, share something even more amazing.
The 10 years following 1900 and 2000 were decades that would introduce a century and set the tone for the next 100 years. But aside from this, the two decades are far apart — not just in years.
The beginning of the 1900s was a time of innovation and growth while the new millennium has been a time of technological development and digital exploration.
Both decades made surprising advances in several areas but the quality of life in each century is left to question.
In the early 1900s, Henry Ford produced the world’s first affordable automobile while the Wright brothers were gearing up for the first recorded flight. It was a time of bright dreams, innovations and firsts for America.
This century, America is reaching a technological ceiling that it may not break through without breaking the bank. How much further can technology travel in a time where video-game graphics border realism?
The miracles of the early 1900s have lost their magic. With insurance, gas and maintenance prices, the term “affordable car” is an oxymoron. Airlines are forced to make significant budget-cuts and many companies in both the auto and airline industries are routinely bought-out or closed down.
Cell phones and computers have made life more convenient but may have done more harm than good. In a world where “OMG! Y2K? JK! ROFL!” is understandable, the English language is far from what it was during the time of writers like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who wrote “The Hound of the Baskervilles” in 1902.
The early part of the 20th century was marked by many social injustices, including Jim Crow laws, segregation and a lack of women’s rights.
Despite being desensitized to modern violence and sensuality due to the many graphic TV shows, today’s world has made strides to reaching equality among all people.
In 2003, Massachusetts legalized same-sex marriage, shortly followed by other states, including Vermont and Iowa. True, many Americans still perpetuate stereotypes, but there are fewer laws denying basic human rights.
Former President William McKinley was assassinated in 1901 and succeeded by Theodore Roosevelt, who was re-elected in 1904. The country was largely at peace, though it endured the assassination of a president. Terrorist attacks weren’t a concern.
Fast-forward to the 21st century — a century at war for almost its entire existence — and terrorist attacks are a major concern, as well as an upsurge in crime.
Former presidents such as George W. Bush failed to make inspiring impressions like Roosevelt, who emphasized conservation and set aside much of the national-park land that Americans still enjoy today. He also won a Nobel Peace Prize.
While President Barack Obama recently won a Nobel Peace Prize, he has yet to create a legacy like the one Roosevelt left behind.
Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, while famous for sensationalizing news known as yellow journalism, helped increase newspaper circulation by adding new sections like comics and sports. Newspapers today, however, are cutting sections in an effort to merely survive.
Interest in the news has given way to interest in matters like who wins “American Idol.” In the 1900s, television did not even exist. People were able to appreciate the world around them instead of longing for a scripted “reality.”
With the Internet’s popularity and growth in the last decade, misinformation has also become an issue.
Patients can “Google” their symptoms rather than see a doctor. Men and women can fall in love with strangers based on pictures and a short profile. Editable Web sites like Wikipedia.org allow anyone with Internet access the ability to spread any mistruth as fact.
Despite our amazing strides in technological and medical-science development that citizens of the 1900s would never have imagined possible, the country seems to have lost its way in a sea of Internet information, reality television and desensitization — proving that easier does not always mean better.