Technology and Materials Development

Not only did the war production effort provide the necessary equipment for the war, but it also led to the development of a large number of new technologies and materials. Many raw materials were in ample supply in the United States, but there were necessities that could not be produced in the United States in large enough volumes that had previously been supplied from abroad. One such material was rubber.

The development of a large-scale process for the production of synthetic rubber from oil was invented and production was rapidly expanded. In 1945 DuPont and other companies produced 820,000 tons of this material, a figure that becomes all the more impressive as the production in 1939 was virtually zero. This barely sufficed to cover the military needs and there was little left for sale on the civilian market. Those who had an automobile had to patch their flat tires and wait to buy replacements until the war was over.

Apart from new materials, the war effort also brought forward a number of new technologies that would later be used for civilian purposes. One example was the ability to build lighter and stronger frames for aircraft that were needed for bombers and other craft to carry heavy loads long distances. After the war, this technology was used in the Boeing 707 passenger aircraft and other aircraft models, which soon made the US production of long-distance passenger trains and Atlantic cruisers obsolete.

Another technological invention was the computer, which was needed to calculate the trajectories of artillery shells. The first computers were extremely expensive, very large and energy consuming, but as we know, the predecessors of today's PCs gradually became smaller, more energy efficient and easier to use. The computer and other electronic products, which spawned the microprocessor industry, have, to a large extent, fueled the economic boom of the past few decades. True, the increasing use of energy has been one prerequisite of economic growth, but the ability to communicate on a global scale has, as we will see, made it possible to structure the global economy and global production and supply chains to the level that we are experiencing today.

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