Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Is Print Dead? or Just Dying? Part I.

As our society moves further and further into the digital age, will it mean the end of the printed word? Future antiquarians sorting the effects of the 20th and 21st centuries, trying to determine how the printed word of ink and paper came to be largely replaced by pixilated letters  on glowing screens, might stumble with interest upon an article by Vannevar Bush in the  July 1945 edition of The Atlantic Monthly magazine. the article titled “As we may think, “ spoke of the increasing difficulty for anyone who attempted to fain information in a way  Bush insisted that humans needed a new way to thread through the abundance of information available a method that would not use a paper and ink.
He proposed a machine called a’ memex,’ which could create links of associations that the used could follow as his or her interests see fit. “Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear; ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them ..,”
Here, almost 30 years before its launch, lies the idea behind the World Wide Web, which now includes almost 100 million people around the globe in its virtual community. People not only can conduct research online but send mail to each other, chat with instant messaging services, and create web communities that are no longer bound by physical geography.
Will the names of Vannevar and Licklider (“who wrote a 1968 paper  proposing an “ intergalactic computer network”) be as revered in the 24th or 25th century as Johannes Gutenberg- the German inventor who opened the way for the democratization of knowledge with the 1436 creation of the moveable type printing press is to us today?  Will computer networks, with their speed and their vast resources of information and video, make pen and ink, books and paper obsolete?

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