After the end of World War II, 400,000 American lives had been lost and we were tired. All of that time and money the government had spent on research and technology had definitely made a difference, but after the war was over, research and technology had a different purpose. Americans wanted a more comfortable life. They wanted to live a more peaceful, more convenient life. The engineers and the scientists started building a mass of new products aimed at fulfilling the American Dream.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the Soviet Union, one of the many countries that witnessed the use of nuclear weapons by the United States, began their own research and development team. They even built their own atomic bomb. But most Americans stopped paying attention until one day, the Russians put a satellite in space. And suddenly, everyone got scared again.
After the Russians put a satellite in space, the Americans and the Russians entered a Cold War in which they were in constant competition over the best technologies and the most threatening weapons.
LEARNING GOAL #1: The Basics of Web History
Students will understand how the Internet evolved from a classified government research project into a world wide resource with the help of highly educated teachers and students.
CLASS DISCUSSIONRead More
Topic #1 – PICKING UP WHERE WE LEFT OFF
After those two atomic bombs were dropped on Japan in 1945, the whole world sat up and started paying attention. The Soviet Union began its own research team and within four years (1949), had their own atomic bombs ready for war. This meant that two important countries, the United States and the Soviet Union, both had weapons that were powerful enough to wipe out entire cities.
As you can probably imagine, there was quite a lot of tension between the United States and the Soviet Union. Soviets (Russians) didn’t trust Americans. And Americans didn’t trust the Soviets. Both countries always feared the other would try to aim a nuclear weapon at one of their cities. And even though this never happened, the period from 1945-1991 was called the Cold War because no bombs were ever dropped and no missiles were ever fired.
Topic #2 – THE UNITED STATES IN 1957
Between 1945, when the United States dropped two atomic bombs, and 1957, our country kept building weapons, but the great World War was over. So a lot of the attention on technology was about building things that might make life a little easier for Americans. Science and engineering that once mattered for the soldiers in war now mattered for families and parents and children trying to deal with everyday life.
Open a Notepad document and save it as “1957.txt” in your MSC (Miscellaneous) folder. At the top, write “TECHNOLOGY IN 1957” IN ALL CAPS. As you watch the video below, write down a list of all the things you notice that are new technologies for Americans in 1957.
Topic #3 – LET’S TALK ABOUT PARANOIA
When people are happy, when things are going well, sort of like it was for a large number of Americans in 1957, no one likes the idea of their happiness or their comforts being taken away. Anyone who might threaten that happiness or that sense of peace would be taken seriously. Even if the threat is unlikely. Even if the threat is not real. Paranoia is a belief that certain people or their actions are suspicious, even when that belief cannot be proven.
- WHAT ARE AMERICANS PARANOID ABOUT TODAY?
Topic #4 – THE RUSSIAN SATELLITE
On October 4, 1957, as a large number of Americans were enjoying life and looking forward to a future of peace and comfort, President Eisenhower received news that the Soviet Union had just launched an object into space. Rumors spread through every American newspaper that this “object” had cameras that could spy on Americans. So naturally, Americans went into a panic. Some even claimed they could see the object at night. They called it the Eye in the Sky. In reality, this “object” was only the size of a basketball and all it did was beep. No one could have seen it even if they had binoculars.
- The News-Sentinel (Rochester, Indiana)
- The Lewiston Daily Sun (Auburn, Maine)
- The Milwaukee Journal (Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
Some newspapers were more accurate than others. Some were more clear. Some were misleading. But all it took for Americans to get paranoid, to stir up fear, was to create the illusion that Russia had something in space that could spy on us. President Eisenhower was not fearful of Sputnik, but he realized that the American people were fearful. So he responded. And the Cold War continued.
Topic #5 – THE AMERICAN RESPONSE TO SPUTNIK
Within a few months of the Sputnik launch, President Eisenhower started the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), a classified operation with almost no limits on what they could research or what they could build. With the help of Congress, the president gave them $2 billion to start researching new projects. But for the first year or so, ARPA just looked at ideas and couldn’t get much done. Sort of like how some of you might look at an assignment and not know where to start for a little while.
- If you were in the ARPA group, what would you design?
When the president saw that ARPA wasn’t getting much done, he created a new agency that he called the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, otherwise known as NASA. Part of that $2 billion that had originally gone to ARPA was now going to NASA. At least for a little while, it seemed like ARPA might never get anything done. After all, everyone knows NASA because they built rockets and put shuttles in space. But what very few people know is that this little ARPA group would keep working, quietly, on a different project. Something that would become the most important technology in human history: the Internet.
Topic #6 – A VIDEO RECAP