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The Greatest 100 Years in History – Are Ahead

Tom Egelhoff Host of Open for Business
Tom Egelhoff, Host of Open for Business

I’ve lived through nine recessions. The current one, if in fact we are still in a recession, will be my tenth. I’ve lived through six wars, high gas prices, 10% unemployment, 15% home loans, a 21% prime rate, and the demise of the 8-track tape deck. Older readers help the younger readers with that last one. Through all these things I’ve learned one very important lesson. Tough times never last.

Nineteen hundred to the year 2000 was an amazing time for the world. Depending on your religious beliefs, man has been on this planet for either 6,000 years, or several million years. Either way, 100 years is the blink of an eye in either perspective. There were five amazing discoveries made during that brief time span that not only changed our country, but the entire world. They are — electricity, telephone, flight, radio, and the automobile. I left out TV and motion pictures simply because they’re just minor improvements of radio.

The Evolution of Intellect

When commenting on finally perfecting a working light bulb, Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Edison’s theory was, that if he could get out in front of the idea, by the time he found the answer, the product would arrive. How could humans exist so long without these discoveries having been made sooner? What are the odds of all these great thinkers, giving birth to these world-changing innovations, converging at the same point in time? There is one very simple answer to that question. They all found themselves in a place where they had the freedom to pursue their dreams — America. Edison and Bell, to Gates and Jobs, to Zuckerberg and YOU????

The Space Age

During the 60’s, amazing products came out of space travel. Or I guess I should say products that made space travel possible. Great minds developed materials that could stand extreme temperature differences. The forerunner of the handheld calculator provided readouts for the astronauts. LED computer screens, fabrics and materials that would allow man to walk and drive on the surface of the moon. And we were just scratching the surface. It’s hard to believe that today’s cell phone has a more powerful computer, and more memory, than the guidance system used in the lunar landing module.

The Computer Age

Ken Olson, founder of the microcomputer company, DEC said, “There is no reason for any individual to have a computer in his home.” I would counter, that for many of us, we’re not sure how we would survive without one. Along came two guys that I think I could arguably put in the same company as Edison — Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Both of these men changed the world, every bit as much as electricity did for our grand parents. Apple, which was breathing its last gasp in 1997, is today the most valuable company on the planet. It’s stock just topped the $600 per share mark.

Where do we go from here?

Looking at the past 100 years I can’t even begin to imagine what amazing things are waiting to be discovered. Think of the advances in communication, medicine, mathematics, literature, music and the arts that lie ahead. Looking at today’s cell phone would be the same as looking at Alexander Graham Bell’s earliest version of the telephone. Not sure how excited Edison would be about the “curly light bulbs,” but even he would have to admit that progress doesn’t always move in the right direction.

Some Final Thoughts

The point I’m trying to make is that life is never stagnant. We are always growing and evolving. By the time they graduate, today’s college freshmen will be working on problems that don’t exist yet. Throughout our country’s history, great people seem to reach their full potential, exactly when we need them. So, yes we are going through a bumpy time right now a lot of negatives are in our way. But I’m convinced American ingenuity is a lot like Montana weather. If you’re not happy with current conditions — just wait a minute.

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