Bringing It Home
Children, Technology, and Family
in the Post–World War II World
The end of the Second World War came with twinned explosions. The nuclear bomb that destroyed Nagasaki, Japan, ended the costliest foreign war in American history. The baby boom that began at the same time ended one hundred years of steadily declining birth rates. Both of these events would have long-lasting consequences, but unlike the searing fireball that mushroomed in the skies over Japan on August 9, 1945, the explosion in fertility in the United States caused neither havoc nor fear. Instead, it seemed to herald new hope and expectations about a much brighter future. Like its twin, however, it would become intimately linked to the brilliant emergence of American technological and economic superiority. The babies born at the time of the bomb could hardly have known it, but the childhoods that they were about to begin and the lives of the children who would follow them until the end of the century would be defined by this fact. Some of the sources of their experience had begun earlier, of course, some of it half a century before. But, it was not until the second half of the twentieth century, after America had become a truly international power, that the dimensions and meanings of these changes became clear.
To name a few of the technological changes that these children were about to inherit and create is to gain some sense of the changed dimensions of the world in which they would grow up: atomic and hydrogen bombs, and automatic weapons; television, VCRs, and CDs; jet travel, satellites, moon walks, and manned space stations; wireless telephones, silicon chips, personal computers, the Internet; contact lenses and artificial organs; birth control pills, IUDs, in vitro fertilization, egg donations and stem cells; freeze-dried foods and microwaves; antibiotics and the polio vaccine; LSD, methamphetamines, Prozac, and Ritalin. Never in the history of the world would a mere two and one-half historical generations