History of Information Technologies
In an iBook I wrote, “The 5 Ages of Information,” I break information into 5 distinct ages.
In the iBook I lay out a timeline for the changes. It is critical to note the acceleration of changes over history. The first stage, Storytelling, stood alone for hundreds of thousands of years. Cave paintings joined Storytelling for forty thousand years. Writing was around for only a couple of thousand years, before the printing press was invented. The printing press was only around 400 years before we invented the Internet.
Looking at the figure above you can see the 5 Ages are:
- Cave Paintings
- Printing Press
In order to evaluate each Information age, I’ve come up with a set of Criteria to distinguish the different ages. The criteria are:
- Does the Information persist over time?
- Is the Information Mobile?
- How much information can be transmitted over a period of time (Bandwidth)?
- Is the information exactly duplicatable?
- How many publishers are there?
- Who controls the Information the government, the Church, or the individual?
- Storytelling – This was the way information passes between people and between generations. Besides the obvious problems, this form of information technology favored those with great memories. This period of time lasted most of history.A key factor that distinguishes Storytelling from other information ages is that it is “non-mediated.” That is the information passing between the communicators is not sent through a “technology.” It is face-to-face.
- Cave Paintings – Cave Paintings are painted drawings on cave walls or ceilings done 40,000 or so years ago in both Asia and Europe.
- Phonic Alphabet – Most early writing systems begin with small images used as words, literally depicting the thing in question. These are called “pictograms.”Then, around 1500 BC we figured out that an alphabet worked orders of magnitude better. Using a phonic alphabet allowed a communicator to provide information about anything, physical and or Conceptual. (Sass 2005).
- The Printing Press – While printing presses were around for a while, it was the development of metal alloys that allowed for “moveable type” that changed the world.A good book on this topic is Elizabeth L. Eisenstein’s book, “The Printing Press as an Agent of Change.” (Eisenstein, 1997)
- The Internet – Begun in the middle 1800’s, the domestication of the electron was the latest impactful innovation.
|Persist Over Time||Mobile||Bandwidth||Duplicatable||Publishers||Control|
|Writing||Yes||Yes||Low||No||Limited||Government or Church|
|Printing Press||Yes||Yes||Medium||Yes||Limited||In beginning the Government or Church. 18th Century Publishers gained more control|