The Information Age - Where did it start?
Who came up with this in the first place?
One of the things we systems consultants are often asked is “Who came up with this in the first place?” That is indeed of tough question to answer. For those of us who are deeply entrenched in the information age, there are many technical breakthroughs we can point to, but there is one invention that really started it all.
Unlike most people who think the information age began in 1947 with the invention of the transistor, or 1958 with the invention of the integrated circuit, I like to say it goes back a little further. Some point to the telephone or the telegraph. Both were important to the information age but not quite number one. I like to go back a little further still, to a fellow named Johannes Gutenberg.
You may know Gutenberg as the publisher of the first printed bible or as developer of the printing press. Correct on both counts. He was also instrumental in development of modern-day paper (bet those big consulting firms appreciate him).
If you really think about it, the printing press was actually the first method of storing and sharing knowledge in a consistent, available, and readable format. Prior to 1456, when Gutenberg successfully used his new printing press, knowledge was only available to the wealthy and powerful who could afford books that were written by hand and could only be duplicated with great pains by monks. Those in power kept them closely guarded. Information was not available to the masses.
Mass production of books lowered the cost and raised availability. This spread of knowledge, led the world out of the dark ages, gave wings to the Renaissance and birth to the industrial revolution.
Unlike his successors in the 20th century, who won Nobel prizes and had successful technology careers, Gutenberg was sued, bankrupted, and even exiled from his homeland of MainzGermany for a number of years. Had he been around today, his invention would have been acquired by Oracle for cash.
So next time the information age turns ugly and you wonder who started it all. Blame Jo Gutenberg.