The Machine Age is an era that includes the early 20th century, sometimes also including the late 19th century. An approximate dating would be about 1880 to 1945. Considered to be at a peak in the time between the first and second world wars, it forms a late part of the Second Industrial Revolution. By the mid to late 1940s, the atomic bomb, the first computers, and the transistor came into being, beginning the contemporary era of Digital Revolution and thus ending the intellectual model of the machine age founded in the mechanical and heralding a new more complex model of high technology. The digital era has been called the Second Machine Age, with its increased focus on machines that do mental tasks.
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Artifacts of the Machine Age include:
- Mass production of high-volume goods on moving assembly lines, particularly of the automobile
- Gigantic production machinery, especially for producing and working metal, such as steel rolling mills, bridge component fabrication, and automobile body presses
- Powerful earthmoving equipment
- Steel framed buildings of great height (the skyscraper)
- Radio and phonograph technology
- High speed printing presses, enabling the production of low cost newspapers and mass market magazines
- Large hydroelectric and thermal electric power production plants and distribution systems
- Low cost appliances for the mass market that employ fractional horsepower electric motors, such as the vacuum cleaner and the washing machine
- Fast and comfortable long distance travel by railroad, automobile, and aircraft
- Development and employment of modern war machines such as tanks, aircraft, submarines and the modern battleship
- Streamline designs in automobiles and trains, influenced by aircraft design
- The rise of mass market advertising and consumerism
- Nationwide branding and distribution of goods, replacing local arts and crafts
- Nationwide cultural leveling due to exposure to movies and network broadcasting
- Replacement of skilled crafts with low skilled labor
- Growth of strong corporations through their abilities to exploit economies of scale in materials and equipment acquisition, manufacturing, and distribution
- Corporate exploitation of labor leading to the creation of strong trade unions as a countervailing force
- Exploitation of natural resources with little concern for the ecological consequences; a continuation of 19th century practices but at a larger scale.
- Release of synthetic dyes, artificial flavorings, and toxic materials into the consumption stream without testing for adverse health effects.
- Conflicts between nations regarding access to energy sources (particularly oil) and material resources (particularly iron and various metals with which it is alloyed) required to ensure national self-sufficiency. Such conflicts were contributory to two devastating world wars.
Arts and architecture
The Machine Age is considered to have influenced:
- Dystopian movies including Chaplin's Modern Times and Lang's Metropolis
- Streamline Moderne appliance design and architecture
- Bauhaus style
- Modern art
- Mentality and freedom By William Armstrong Fairburn. Page 219.
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- "The Plan Comes Together - Encyclopedia of Chicago". Encyclopedia.chicagohistory.org. Retrieved 2013-08-14.