Inside America: The Rise and Fall of An Empire

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It was during the Seventies that the computer revolution finally reached the American public. Computers were not new. The first computer was built by the American military during the Second World War. It was a huge machine that used vacuum tubes and ate up enormous amounts of electricity. The computer made calculations slowly, but in the 1950's the invention of the transistor led to bigger changes. A transistor was a tiny silicon wafer that could pack more energy and information into itself than a huge computer using hundreds of thousands of vacuum tubes. It was like having a tiny computer in one's hand. This little computer chip could be put together with other computer chips and from this was born the concept of an integrated circuit. Many little computers working together in less and less physical space working faster and faster. It was almost like magic, this new computer technology.

Computers simply became smaller and smaller during the 1960's. Many of the new computer companies were based in an area south of San Francisco called Silicon Valley. Silicon was the material in which the little computer chips were made of. This is were the Ritchie family lived and Mr. Ritchie worked in this busy computer environment. But by the mid-Seventies most Americans still had no access to private computers. This soon began to change. As the technology became cheaper and easier to use many computer hobbyists began building their own little computers with the new chip technology. At first these little computers were just toys with few applications. The important thing was not what the computer could do, but that it could be built at all for almost nothing. Many young computer hobbyists or " hackers " as they were called shared information between themselves for the sheer fun of it.

But in 1976, two young hackers named, Stephen Jobs and Stephen Wozniak were the first to build a small computer that could be sold on the market to many people cheaply. The Apple II had been created in a garage owned by Stephen Job's family. This was the beginning of the PC revolution and of the computer company called Apple. Many Americans were still unaware at the time of the implications of what this all meant. But within five years personal computers would be creating a huge new industry worth billions of dollars that would change the face of America and the world. Soon the possibility of every American having access to computing power would be a reality. The Third Wave would be taking off sooner than most people suspected and later in the century when the power of all these personal computers were connected a new cultural era would begin. An era that is still not fully understood by most humans. An era with many good and bad implications.

Let's look at the Ritchie family now:

Chad: " Hey, Harvey how's the champ today? Is your mother taking good care of you. "

Harvey: " Yeah, I'm alright Dad. Can we play Pong? "

Chad: " Sure we can. You don't want to play baseball, though? "

Harvey: " Yeah, baseball's OK, but I'd rather play a computer game right now. "

Chad: " Do you want to play STAR TREK ? "

Harvey: " Yeah, I get to be Captain Kirk and I need to destroy the Klingon spaceships. "

Chad: " Well, you need to capture them first. "

Harvey: " I can also play MICRO-CHESS. "


Harvey: " Yeah, I know I'm going to college soon, but this is more fun. "

Chad: " What do you want to do when you get to college? "

Harvey: " Oh, I don't know. Make a lot of money, I guess. I mean I don't want to do protests like Mara. That was pretty dumb. It didn't really accomplish much.
Chad: " Oh, let your sister do what she needs to do. Just don't take any drugs. "

Harvey: " Well, you know Dad everybody's taking drugs now in high school. Weed is really big. "

Chad: " You stay away from that stuff. "

Harvey: Yeah, I'm trying. But if you don't toke weed. People think you're pretty uncool.

Chad: " Let them think what they want. Let them destroy their brains.

Harvey: " Yeah, it's bong city everywhere. Roaches too…. "

Chad: " Stay away from all of that stuff. "

Harvey: "Well, what about the babes? "

Chad: " What about them? "

Harvey: " Everyone's making out more and more and going all the way. "

Chad: " I don't want to talk about this. "

Harvey: " Why not? "

Chad: " Because it's not time for this. "

Harvey: " Well, if not now. Then when? "

Chad: " Let me talk to your mother first. "


PONG: One of the first computer games.
Weed: Marijuana.
Toke: To smoke Marijuana.
Bong: Pipe filled with water for smoking marijuana.
Roach: Last unsmoked bit of a marijuana cigarette.
Babes: Young girls.

Indeed, many of the activities that college kids did in the Sixties was now spreading to the high-schools of America in the Seventies. Drugs, sex, and music were now part of the mainstream. This was the world of the " Me " generation. They had watched the early boomers on television and now they were growing up in a more liberal environment with less cultural restrictions and also less academic discipline. The results would not always be good for America. By the late Seventies, the kind of drugs used by all classes of Americans would also change to more hard forms like cocaine which were no longer consumed for mind expansion, but just for a fast escape from life.

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