The Effect of Technology on the Cold War

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The Cold War (1947-1941) between the US and the USSR led to a competition between the two world superpowers, to reign supreme over the other in all aspects of technology, this fueled the need for many advancements in military and computer technology for both sides (CNN, Cold War). Had it not been for this competition, much of our current technology most probably would not be where it is today.

The period of several technological military advancements during the Cold War also created the largest arms (both conventional and nuclear) race in history. This race began with the Cold War in 1947 and still continues onward today (The Arms Race). This arms race began when the US was informed that the Nazi's could possibly be developing an atom bomb, if the Nazi's successfully created this weapon of mass destruction (WMD) they would then become unstoppable. The Americans then created the Manhattan Project as a response the Nazi's.

To the Nazi's dismay, the US created and tested the first nuclear weapon called the "Trinity" test in July of 1945 (Arms Race). A few weeks after the initial testing of "Trinity", Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan were bombed once each by two American atomic bombs, "Little Boy" and "Fat Man", in response to the attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor. These instances let all know the immense and destructive power of the nuclear bomb The Arms Race). Four years later, on August 9, 1949 the soviets surprised the world by testing an H- Bomb, it was almost completely a product of their own original domestic research, due to the fact that the espionage sources based in the USA had only worked on very early and incorrect versions of the H- Bomb. The development processes were headed by the infamous NKVD (Narodnyi Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del) leader Lavrenty Beria. The USSR's bomb, "Joe 1", was more powerful than both the "Little Boy" and the "Fat Man" (The Arms Race).

A good portion of the technology that we now enjoy today may have not been available to us had it not been for the Cold War and the arms race. What we now call the Internet was previously called ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network). This was an attempt by the US to create a decentralized communication system that was capable of maintaining functional capabilities even after it had sustained partial damage (NCE, 143). This new technology would be very useful in the chance of a nuclear bombing that had destroyed all other forms of centralized communication. This amazing new advancement in communication technology was achieved through the creation of several nodes- Individual systems that could send information packets to other operational nodes (144). The key to this setup was that if some type of attack destroyed one node, the other operational nodes could still communicate with each other. Initially there were four nodes setup in several different locations: University of California Los Angeles, Stanford Research Institute's Augmentation Research Center, University of California Santa Barbara, and University of Utah's Graphics Department (144). Another place where computers were used during the Cold War is at MIT and Princeton, there the Ballistics Research Laboratory used computers to determine trajectory capabilities of the US and USSR arsenal. This technology made the use of Inter-Continental missiles possible. Computers are where they are today because the US previously saw the potential in its' use along with ballistic missiles, nuclear bombs, and other military weapons that were greatly advanced in accuracy and power due to the advancements in computer technology (145).

Under the command of Curtis LeMay in 1949, The Strategic Air Command updated the bomber fleet to use all-jet engines giving the US the capability to successfully bomb the USSR (CNN, Cold War). In 1957 the USSR launched the Sputnik into space, showing the world that the USSR had the capabilities to launch missiles that could hit targets anywhere in the world. The Sputnik program consisted of five different launches: Sputnik 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5. Sputnik 2 carried the world's first living passenger, a dog-named Laika (CNN, Cold War). Unfortunately those in charge of planning the mission did not conjure a method of returning Laika safely back to earth. This not only became the first living passenger into space, but also the first space casualty. On August 19, 1960 the final installation of the Sputnik program, Sputnik 5, carried two dogs: Belka and Strelka, forty mice, two rats, and a variety of plants into space (CNN, Cold War). Benevolently, all the specimens arrived back on earth safely the next day. All of these advancements in space technology for the Soviets created a massive wake-up call for the US. The US had previously believed it was the leader of space technology and space development, this period was called the Sputnik crisis. The Sputnik crisis made the US increase funding in space technology and the launch of Explorer I and Project SCORE. The Sputnik crisis also led to the creation of NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration) and major increases in U.S. Government spending on the National Science Foundation (CNN, Cold War). Following all this, the Space Race began (1957 - 1975). The winner of the Space Race would be the first country to send a human into space. Since WWII was over, the US, Britain, and the USSR all tried to capture several German scientists to aid in the scientific research of rocketry that the Germans were previously using. The US captured the largest amount of German scientists and therefore benefited the most compared to Britain and USSR. The US called this Operation Paperclip (CNN, Cold War).

The US and the USSR were locked into a detrimental situation: each side then had the capabilities to completely obliterate the other side. If one side decided to completely bomb the other, the side that has been bombed could seek revenge and also destroy the attacker. Being able to bomb the other side even after being completely destroyed was achieved through something called a "second strike" capability (CNN, Cold War). This could be achieved through the use of submarines. This suicidal bombing of each other would achieve nothing but massive losses of lives, and making the world an uninhabitable place to live. Both sides knew this, and therefore restrained from attacking one another. The situation was officially known as (MAD) Mutually Assured Destruction (CNN, Cold War).

One of the most tense periods of the war can be defined as the Cuban Missile Crisis. This is when the Soviets, under the order of Nikita Khrushchev, attempted to gain some leverage in the war by placing several medium range nuclear missiles on the communist island of Cuba. Cuba was close enough the US that many major cities were easily within range. The US learned about this through the use of aerial photography, JFK then deemed this decisive action by the Soviets as unacceptable. The island was quarantined and the US threatened to invade Cuba if they did not remove the nuclear bombs. Eventually, the US and the USSR came to an agreement where the USSR agreed to remove their bombs from Cuba if the US would remove their bombs from Turkey and promise not to invade Cuba. Slow communications between the two nuclear superpowers made the process slow and painful. These occurrences led to the creation of a hotline: a red telephone connected directly between the US and the Kremlin. If there was anything that urgently needed to be told to the other superpower the two powers could talk on the phone (CNN, Cold War).

Eventually the US pulled way ahead in progress in terms of weapon development; this is largely due to advanced espionage/intelligence gathering capabilities by the US. The US had spy satellites taking pictures of the USSR and watching their every move, if the USSR made a new breakthrough in technology the US soon copied and added that technology to US databases (CNN, Cold War).

It would be controversial for one to take a stand on whether or whether not the Cold War was a good thing or a bad thing for the overall wellness of the world as it is today. Without it, we may have been living a little or a lot less luxuriously when compared to how we live today. It is an undisputable fact that the Cold War caused large leaps in all types of technology from nuclear bombs, to space technology, to communication, etc. Perhaps to those who lived through most of it, it was not much of a good thing, but my generation gets to enjoy the positive sides of the Cold War.