The modern age has enabled American citizens to broaden their horizons at an accelerated rate. At any given moment, an American can speak with someone from China, Thailand, or India, through the Internet, and can interact with individuals and with customs that have never before been so accessible to anyone, anywhere. The technological age has opened our eyes in many ways, leading many Americans to become more educated, more aware in the world-at-large and most importantly less isolated. The United States territory, as a whole, covers over three million miles. This is an immense size, with which many other countries cannot compete. Furthermore, like all large countries, the U.S. has few neighbors and is surrounded by water. Though these elements are impenetrable defenses, in an age where conquest is no longer the norm, the U.S. could, without technology, find itself isolated, as it had for decades prior to the First World War. Technology has, thus, ended the physical and intellectual isolationism of Americans by introducing them to world cultures, by enabling better awareness of the world and the environment in general, and by contributing to the advancement of America as a stalwart of democracy, fairness, and international political power.
Since 1865, technology has ended the physical and intellectual isolation of Americans in ways that could hardly have been imagined before the Civil War, although there were some important hints about the direction the country would be taking with the development of the telegraph, steamship and railroad. Post-Civil War developments that transformed the country were the completion of the railroad network by 1900, and the invention of new mass transportation technologies like the automobile and the airplane, as well as new mass communication technologies like the telephone, radio, television and the computer. Most of these were developed first on a large scale in the United States stimulated the economy and made the country the leading industrial power for decades.
All of these new technologies certainly made the world seem smaller and brought people closer together, although they did not ensure global peace, liberate women, end poverty and drudgery or any of the other extravagant claims that were initially made for them (Edgerton, 2007, p. xvi). In order to see how the beginnings of the technological age took hold and how they eventually helped America, one must thus examine these early developments. The first section of the paper will therefore concentrate on the period between the Civil War and the First World War. The second part, will focus upon the years between the First and Second World Wars, and the last part will focus upon the Cold War and the Present.
Prior to the Civil War, America, a newly liberated country from the oppressive Kingdom of Great Britain, lived in relative harmony (with some exceptions, such as the Southwest and the West). The colonies developed many industries, and founding fathers such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson penned, sometimes literally, invention after invention, be it physical, theoretical or political. America has, thus, always been an innovative country and the following paragraph, which will prove just how much America has modernized, will show how similar America today is in its power of invention and creativity, when compared to colonial times. However, as contrast, America during colonial times was very isolated, except for those who were rich and could travel, yet today, anyone can feel as if he or she is truly a citizen of the world. This is one easy way to see how technology has ended American isolationism and opened the portal to exploring the world.
After the Civil War, the first transcontinental railroad was completed, linking the East Coast with California. This railroad, which, of course, could not have come about without other inventions, such as the steam engine, was a miracle for this immense country. With the Louisiana Purchase a few decades before, Thomas Jefferson doubled the size of the nascent country in the blink of an eye. The transcontinental railroad was a fantastic connection with the Pacific coast. The beginnings of the railroad's construction began in 1845, when Asa Whitney successfully presented a plan to Congress for the subsidizing of building a railroad form the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean (Columbia Encyclopedia, 2011, p. 1).