Millennium Countdown

Looking back on the century of change

By Ashleigh Viveiros
Garden Valley collegiate
Winkler, Manitoba

As the new century and millennium dawn on us, and the old ones draw to a close, I find myself looking more to the past than to the future. The last hundred years have shown us more achievements and failures than any century before -- not just technological advances, but social ones as well.


At the turn of this century, people were still using horses and buggies as transportation. Women and African-Americans had virtually no rights, and practically anything truly technological was in the process of being or had yet to be invented.

In our list of many achievements, it is hard to know where to start. I suppose one good starting point could be in the way society thinks. Today, virtually anything is possible. The moon is not made of green cheese and is no longer an unobtainable goal. Man has flown through the air like a bird and into the heavens in a rocket. All people deserve equal rights. Although there are still some who vehemently disagree, we hear less and less of fights for equal rights.

Some of our elders have seen many exciting events in their lifetime. In 1920, females got the right to vote. In 1969, only a mere 66 years after the first airplane flight, man stepped onto the surface of a planet not our own. Henry Ford came out with his Model T car in 1908, revolutionizing transportation and launching an era that has yet to close.

Despite a poor reception by the public when it was first introduced, television has become one of the world's most common forms of entertainment. Computers weighed as much as 30 tons in 1945, as opposed to the much lighter versions of today.

Of course, not all changes have been for the best. The 20th century has had its share of wars and problems. Sometimes it seems that as soon as we solve one problem, another begins.

In 1914, "the war to end all wars" began, and ended in 1917. It was followed by yet another war, World War II, only 25 years later. In between the two wars was the Great Depression, years of unemployment and poverty. In the years after the "Great Wars," mankind would see the Gulf War, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and numerous other wars and revolutions
that are not well known.

In a rapidly changing world, disasters are inevitable. The most notable may have been the sinking of the Titanic. This "unsinkable ship" served as a warning to mankind that despite all of our advances, we are not invincible. The crash of the Hindenburg in 1937 ended the days of giant airships, and the 1986 loss of the Challenger rocket impaired NASA's space program.

There have been many discoveries in the 20th century, whether they be uncovering the mysteries of our past or proving what we can achieve. King Tut's tomb was discovered in 1922 and a cave found in 1940 contained paintings 15,000 years old. Man raced to the Poles in 1911 and reached
them; then we touched the summit of great Mt. Everest in 1953.

Not all discoveries were to our benefit. The splitting of the atom in 1938 launched the atomic age and gave birth to the atomic bomb. For the first time in history, we had the ability completely to annihilate ourselves.

So, as the curtain closes on the 20th century, we have to look back and marvel at all we have done. One can only wonder: if we have achieved all of this in one hundred short years, what is possible in the next hundred? By the end of the 21st century, our world most certainly will be a very different place.