Definitions

Machine Age

Machine Age

Machine Age is a term associated with the early 20th Century. Considered to be at a peak in the time between the first and second World Wars it forms a late part of the Industrial Age. It was ultimately eclipsed by the Atomic Age beginning in 1945.

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

Social influence

  • 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 acqusition, manufacturing, and distribution
  • Corporate exploitation of labor leading to the creation of strong trade unions as a countervailing force

Environmental influence

  • 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.

International relations

  • 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:

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