I’m sure that every era thinks that it will be remembered.
And as momentous as some events may be in a decade, quite often it’s just an occurrence rather than a movement in history.
To frame this discussion, let’s agree on some rules. I’m not talking about history professors or even geeks like myself who can tell you very generally what happened in Rome in the first century.
It’s history that the normal person knows and understands. For instance Columbus making his way to the New World in 1492 changed the history of the planet.
So did the invention of the Gutenberg press several decades earlier, although I would suggest that the importance of this innovation isn’t as widely known or understood by most folks.
You can point to the founding of the United States in the 1770s and the industrial revolution in the decades around the same time.
But is there anything more recent that has changed history?
As an experiment, I reflected on the last century decade by decade, without the benefit of Wikipedia or other historical sources. I wanted to see what a casual historical buff could come up with for global themes or movements in history.
I came up blank for anything major in 1900-09 that wasn’t political posturing or battles. The next decade featured a world war that will be remembered.
The Great Depression started in the 1920s but was more of a story in the 1930s.
The 1940s, of course, featured another world war. The 1950s saw the startling ascent of the atomic age and the Cold War raged.
The 1960s were about civil rights and music. The 1980s increasingly saw the rise of corporate greed.
The 1990s featured the birth of the Internet. And as strange as it may seem, that alone will make the 1990s the most important decade of the century and perhaps the last several hundred years.
The Internet had been under development in various stages since the 1960s but it only entered the public consciousness and widespread use in the early 1990s.
I have a clear memory of my old boss searching for a photo and three of us waiting for several minutes for the picture to come up. It was the first time I had seen this new phenomenon at work and it was a little underwhelming.
Of course back in those days, you had to pay the long distance charge to where you dialed up the website.
It was expensive and inconvenient. Oh, how times have changed.
The broad stroke of globalization that started in 1492 has now swept the globe.
In many ways, the country we live in -- as long as there is some level of freedom -- is irrelevant because the Internet has made the planet a global village.
Just think about the industries forever changed by this new age of widely available and often free information in the last two decades.
Think about how email has changed the post office.
The wide availability of movies online has killed the movie rental business. The music industry is finding its way in a new reality.
Travel can be booked online. Real estate can be looked at and purchased.
The Yellow Pages are hurting. Radio numbers are down from their glory years. Even TV is increasingly being watched online.
Magazines are down in sales.
It would be a ridiculous oversight not to point out that newspapers have been changed forever. But there is a strange fact at play.
Circulation is down a bit from our glory years -- not as much as some folks in town would like you to believe, but down -- while the readership for the Prince Albert Daily Herald is higher than it’s ever been. With stories posted on the Internet, combined with our print product’s wide acceptance, more eyes scan on our stories than at any time in history.
And that’s the glory of the Internet. At a keystroke you could be speaking live to someone in Tokyo and watching them speak back at you.
The world has become a remarkably tiny place, even with nearly seven billion souls living on it.
It has been centuries since companies did the majority of their business in one place. With increasingly automated systems, companies can now employ fewer people and situate in them parts of the globe where pay can amount to pennies on the dollar of similar staffing in North America.
That’s great for poorer nations but it isn’t helping the middle class here.
There are other downsides.
For instance the sad fools who posted their ridiculous conspiracy theories on things like the tragic Newtown shooting are a prime example.
With the democratization of the information flow comes the rise of the disaffected malcontent, who has a voice and reach never available to them before.
If you’re delicate, you may not want to review the comments sections on some websites, which have become bastions of racism, sexism, homophobia and downright paranoia.
(The worst of them would tell you that I’m part of the vast media coverup involving the one government world elite and possibly the giant lizards living below Denver Airport. If that’s the case, I haven’t been taught the secret handshake yet. And I’m still waiting for my orders from the Freemasons or Illuminati or the alien mothership; I’m actually not sure where they’re coming from.)
All the great movements in history had their downsides. The hysterical paranoia of some in the face of a changing world is a small price to pay.
It’s always amazing to think that even with the change engineered in the last two decades, it will seem like baby steps in a century.
This is just the start of a new reality.
The world is headed places none of us can imagine. And while the Depression and even the world wars will one day be just historical footnotes, the dawn of the digital age won’t soon be forgotten.