What effect did developments in technology have on the American way of life in the 1950s?

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pholland14 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Technology was quite important during the 1950s. First, the development of the polio vaccine by Jonas Salk ended an epidemic that killed millions and crippled even more. Polio would soon be very rare in the United States thanks to the availability of this vaccine.

Though television technology had been around before 1950, the 1950s saw its spread to more households. This led to the creation of more television networks. Many stars such as Lucille Ball have become more famous for their work in television than in the movies. Television in the 1950s became a method to communicate family values through situational comedies (sitcoms) featuring the nuclear family. By the end of the decade, politicians would grasp television's importance in campaigning and getting their message out to a wide group of people.

Another piece of technology that shaped the United States would be the interstate system. Designed during the Eisenhower presidency to support military readiness in the event of a Soviet attack, millions of Americans took advantage of this highway system in order to take vacations and visit relatives in various states. People moved away from the major cities and lived in the suburbs knowing that they could commute via the interstate to their job.

estoverl eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The 1950s can be considered the birth of the computer age and beginning of a huge change in the American way of life. Although the first computers were for commercial use only, they eventually enhanced and sped up processes of daily life such as weather forecasting. The first hard discs, computer modems, and microchips were also developed in the 1950s and led to the improvement of computers. 

Medical advances such as the heart-lung machine helped make longer surgeries possible, increasing the success rate for life threatening injury and illness surgeries. Life expectancy increased. 

At home, the television became a normal element of daily life. People began to use their leisure hours in different ways. Some might say the "couch potato" was born and changed daily life. 

Space exploration increased as satellites went into space. The invention of nuclear power submarines, the hydrogen bomb, and lasers meant that the possibilities of dangerous weaponry was always on the public's mind when talk turned to war and conflicts. 

The 1950s were the era when daily life began to move at a faster pace due to technological advances. It has not slowed down since. 

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Technological developments affected American life in the 1950s in a number of ways.

One technological development that affected American life was the development of nuclear weapons and their delivery systems.  The 1950s were the decade of “duck and cover” and of fallout shelters.  The seemingly ever-present danger of atomic warfare affected American life and the American psyche in important ways.

Another important development was the home air conditioner.  Air conditioning in private homes did not really come about until after WWII.  This allowed more Americans to live in places with warm climates.  It also encouraged more people to spend time in their own comfortable homes.

Within those homes, many people in the ‘50s were watching television.  This was the last of the developments I will address here.  TV helped to make the home a center of entertainment and leisure time in ways that would not previously have been possible.