Paper 2: The Evolution of How We Share Information
Human interest in sharing information likely began simply with the need to survive. Knowledge of hunting and gathering had to be passed on and shared to help a community and future generations thrive. One of the earliest examples of passing on such knowledge may have been the caves of Lascaux. The Paleolithic cave paintings found in France includes images of animals such as bison and deer which may have served as education for successful hunting. (1) Thousands of years later, laser mapping and 3D modeling technology has made it possible for people all over the world to view and study these images.(2) Technology has allowed us to not only look forward and share new information but also to look into our past and study the lives and technologies of our ancestors.
The technology used most throughout history to provide information to many is writing. The earliest forms of writing are credited to the Egyptians and Sumerians to around 3100 BC.(3) Writing evolved from literal images, simple symbols and concepts to eventually become more complex and capable of recording any kind of information. From clay tablets to papyrus and eventually the paper we know today, writing is a form of technology that is still evolving. It is possibly that one day in the not too distant future writing will completely evolve past paper and pens.
Today every student and office worker can type information with a keyboard but the typewriter was its predecessor. Though there were a few individuals who developed similar technology, the first commercial typewriter, Remington Model 1, became available to the public in 1874. (4) Typewriters allowed anyone to write a neat and readable document however compared to today’s technology they were noisy, slow and difficult to edit existing documents with.
The invention of computers has slowly, but drastically, changed the way we obtain and share information about everything. Many mechanical inventions used during the industrial revolution for both office use and manufacturing contributed to the invention of the modern computer. Simple machines existed for counting as early as 2700 B.C. when ancient civilizations used the Abacus, made from pebbles, stones or beads. (4) The purpose of all of these inventions that led to the computer was to make life easier or to produce more of a product in a quicker and less costly manner. The invention of the Programmable Weaving Loom in the 1700s made it possible for a machine to quickly and efficiently do a job that is the past required a person to do. (5)
Not only could such machines be used to make a profit and provide goods but also to gain, analyze and share information. This is the main reason we use home and office computers. In 1890 Dr. Herman Hollerith invented a machine that was able to tabulate the 1890 U.S. census which was then possible to complete in only two years. (6)
It was the invention of the Hollerith Machine that led to the beginnings of IBM. In 1921 Hollerith retired from his company, Computing Tabulating Recording company (CTR), and Thomas J. Watson became president and changed the name of the company to International Business Machines (IBM). (6) In 1964 IBM created the first standard institutional mainframe computer. (7) In the 1960s companies such as Xerox, Texas Instruments, Intel and others make technological advancements in computers build for gathering and analyzing information.
In the early 1970s Steve Jobs and Bill Gates begin selling their early computers and developing Miscrosoft and Apple. These two companies are responsible for many of the popular devices used in homes and offices today. But Apple’s introduction of the iphone could be the biggest development since the internet that changed the way we share information. The earliest versions of smartphones were available in the early 1990s from companies such as IBM and Nokia but such devices were too expensive and large to be as appealing as the iphone is now. (8)
The iphone was released by Apple in 2007 which sold millions and was named “Invention of the Year” by Times magazine. (9) However, six years later it has changed the world enough that it may end up becoming one of the most significant inventions of the century. The idea of a handheld, touchscreen device was not completely original to Apple and several other companies, such as Google, have created their own versions to rival Apples’. But the iphone remains the first device to popularize the idea of the smart phone on such a worldwide scale.
When the first iphone was released it featured a web browser, a music player and several other useful applications. With the introduction of the App Store came the development of apps that could utilize the smart phone in ways that Apple may not have even anticipated. Applications for smart phones can be developed by anyone who has the skill and large companies have been known to pay for exclusive rights to such applications. The application Instagram, an app that can turn an iphone photo into an artistic vintage image, was bought by Facebook for $1 Billion. Colleges have already begun to provide courses for students who wish to learn how to develop phone applications.
Today the smartphone and/or tablet, combined with a fast internet connection, can replace almost any other method for obtaining and sharing information. Television and movies can be viewed by downloading or even streaming which gives us the ability to even watch events live through these devices. Many people, especially older generations, are still watching television through a cable box or satellite but more and more people are watching television through streaming websites such as Hulu or Netflix. HBO has recently provided an application called HBO Go which allows any user who subscribes through their cable company to access any of their shows or movies through the app at anytime. The app is available to some European companies without a subscription to a cable service, US customers are pushing to have the same option. The streaming website Netflix will be exclusively airing a full new season the popular cancelled Fox network television program, Arrested Development. As these websites become more involved in such exclusive and convenient delivery of popular programs it is possible that cable companies will find it difficult to survive.
The most widley used and most important information that we recieve and share daily is local and world news. Traditional media such as newspapers have struggled more and more as the popularity of online news websites grows. Paper has become an unessesary waste that cannot be as up to date as online news sources. Major news stories are usually available in a matter of hours, sometimes minutes, after an event occurs. Combined with the reduced cost of production and added revenue from online advertising, online news sources are easily more profitable. Most major newspapers that are still i circulation offer some type of online subscription. However it is easy for anyone to recieve up to date and accurate information completely for free, aside from the cost of a computer or phone and internet access which most people wish to have anyway.
As computers become more portable and more accessible to people all over the world, the need for paper and other traditional media lessens. Physical copies of books, magazines and newspapers will diminish more each year. If the companies that produce these reading materials want to survive they will have to move to digital and most of them have already started. Magazines can be subscribed to through tablets and phones and nearly any book can be accessed though an e-reader, tablet or phone. Online news sources have become much more popular than traditional newspapers already.
Though some companies might fail to make the transition there will always be a way for information to reach people. The delivery of information may change but the content will be the same. There are many advantages to the reduction of paper. There will be lower costs, less waste and the ability to update information quickly. Mistakes will no longer be immortalized in thousands of printed copies. Any mistake in a book, magazine or online advertisement can be updated before as soon as it is discovered and reported to the publishers. Content can be updated throughout each day and there is no need to wait for the 5:00 newscast to stay up to date on local or world news.
Television and radio can also be accessed through the same devices. There eventually will be no need for cable boxes, satellite dishes or radios. With one small device we can have information delivered in seconds in any form we choose. These devices are becoming more a part of the user than ever before. The term “Nomophobia” has been used to describe a fear a person has of being with out their mobile device. Google is developing glasses that would serve as a wearable computer, one that could make all of this information a part of every second of every day in a persons life. Apple is also developing a mobile wrist watch which is similar in the concept that all of this information is a part of who we are as a culture. Smartphones and computers have replaced many other forms of technology but they all serve the same purpose, to spread information, and that is the one thing that will remain the same though the delivery and the context will continue to change.