Year by year more people are saying more over more channels on more topics to a bigger total audience. The Internet is exploding. The talk in cable television is of 500 channels. Videotape stores sell used tapes to clear their crowded shelves. Desk-top publishing pours out newsletters, self- published books, magazines, and multi-media presentations, with no end in sight. New computer software arrives every day. In free industrial nations, bookstores and magazine stands are jammed with product. Libraries hardly know what to do with all their books. It has been true for decades that anyone can own a book. Now, in industrial societies, almost anyone can own a movie. Meanwhile, more movies are being shot than ever. And desktop video is bringing a budget version of Hollywood to Main Street. Meanwhile, home computers expand information use in ways only recently undreamed. Even if it were nothing else, our Information Age is the latest in a series of social revolutions that define and span recorded history. A desire to produce communication as well as to consume it has been present in every generation. Venturesome souls have risked personal freedom, savings, reputation, even life and limb to create and distribute information. In the present generation, when technology has merged the computer and other connective media like cable and satellite with end user media like books and television, opportunities have arisen that find their closest comparison in the fifteenth century, when printing began in Europe and the old limits crumbled. Defining an Information Revolution The wish to remember something by writing it down led over the course of millennia to the start of the first information revolution. It and the revolutions that followed would shape humankind more than any wars or any kings ever did or could. With a few scratches, our inventive ancestors set in motion the never ending story of re-corded information, the communication and storage of knowledge outside the brain. Here broke history's long dawn.
This book identifies six periods in Western history that fit the description of an information revolution. The periods range in time from the eighth century B.C. to the near future.
The first of the six information revolutions may be characterized as the Writing Revolution. It began primarily in Greece about the eighth century B.C., with the convergence of the phonetic alphabet, an import from Phoenicia to the east, and papyrus, an import from Egypt to the south. With writing used to store knowledge, the human mind would no longer be con-strained by the limits of memory. Knowledge would be boundless. The second information revolution, the Printing Revolution, began in Europe in the second half of the fifteenth century, with the convergence of paper, an import originally from China, but proximately from the Arab and Moorish cultures, and a printing system that the German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg assembled, perhaps from a variety of sources. With printing, information spread through many layers of society. Printing lent itself to massive political, religious, economic, educational, and personal alterations. We have called these changes the Reformation, the Renaissance, humanism, mercantilism, and the end of feudalism. Printing marked the start of the modern world.
The third information revolution, the Mass Media Revolution, began in Western Europe and the eastern United States during the middle of the nineteenth century, with the convergence of advances in paper production and printing press methods, and the invention of the telegraph, which changed the way information was conveyed. For the first time, newspapers and magazines reached out to the common man with news about events near and far, and packaged goods for sale. Photography spoke to his heart. Public schools and public…