Not the Gutenberg Press

The Gutenberg printing press was a great advancement of existing technology.
It is very important. I don’t want to write it off but it’s been overdone and
misunderstood. It is important to realize that the book already existed and,
of course, the written word as a means of communication already existed. As we
move from book technology to digitally printed and displayed technology, we
are not overcoming 500 years of book culture, we are overcoming over 2,000 years
of this technology. I should point out here that the digital cobbler project
is not about denigrating books or trying to minimize their current importance
and utility. Book production is still tremendously high and is still the only
means of transferring recorded information in many parts of the world. Even
in our part of the world where digital technology is readily available books
are an essential part of our entire information infrastructure and we should
expect to take much more than a generation for them to be replaced. I am not
blind to the fact that much of the research during this project was accomplished
through reading printed books.


In brief, it is certainly the case that the availability of books grew tremendously
as printing presses proliferated into the 16th century. By the early 1500s,
a learned gentleman could amass a personal library of over 1000 books. This
would have been economically impossible only 50 years earlier. This explosion
of printed information, it has been argued, did lead to the rise of modern mathematics
and made the industrial age possible. (Information Ages, pp 100-115).


Obviously, there’s lots more to say on this subject. This is just the beginning.
But I believe the best way to learn more about living in our own digital environments
and to learn more from the history of technology is from each other and that’s
what blogs are for.


The [original] Digital Cobbler blog has more about the history of science, technology, and information and about the digital environments we live in. Check it out!  [Note: the original Digital Cobbler forum & blog started in 2001 was about these things but it’s gone and the new one is about…. well… you can check it out and see. PH.]