History of Print Media

Irene Piechota

IMA 505


Means of human communication though time.


History of print media and written communication follows the progress of civilization which, in turn, moves in response to changing cultural technologies. The transfer of complex information, ideas and concepts from one individual to another, or to a group, underwent extreme evolution since prehistoric times. It has been 30,000 years later since the first recorded evidence of written communication and it is still dramatically changing. Nowadays perhaps faster than ever before due to amazing advances in technology in recent years. Technical breakthroughs alter the way we perceive the universe and manner in which we communicate with one another.

As long ago as 25,000-30,000 years B.C. first humans painted descriptive pictures on cave walls. The narrative compositions left on the walls of Lascaux represented their own way of communicating with the spiritual world and another. The well-preserved drawing depicted their deep religious beliefs, fears, and every day life. The pictorial type found in caves of Southern France and Spain is the beginning of written communication for the human kind. http://www.culture.gouv.fr/culture/arcnat/chauvet/en/index.html

The advent of a writing system coincided with the transition from hunter-gatherer societies to more permanent agrarian encampments when it became necessary to count ones property. One of the earliest examples of pictorial writing was found in the excavation of Uruk in Mesopotamia, dating from 3500 B.C. The Sumerians developed cuneiform (pictographs) writing on wet clay tablets. http://www.worldhistorysite.com/culttech.html Later (2900 B.C.), the Egyptians developed hieroglyphic writing. Special scribes were employed to keep records for the priest class who exacted taxation from the population. Their records on papyrus and pigment were less permanent than the frieze carvings in tamples, which were meant to last for eternity.

In 1900 B.C. the Chinese independently developed their very own style of writing. The earliest record of Chinese writing was found preserved on various bones. Their achievement was the building stone for Japanese and Korean to create their own models in 400 B.C.

The first alphabetic script appeared in Palestine at about 160 B.C., which influenced early Phoenician (113 B.C.) and Hebrew script (110 B.C.). Greek alphabet derived from Phoenician script in 110 B.C. and was the source for Latin alphabet ( 7 B.C.), which consequently fathered Frankish Carolingian Latin script ( 800 B.C.).

At first we used stone and clay tablets to express our thoughts. With passage of time we developed other means of writing surfaces. The first portable and light writing surface were papyrus rolls and early parchments papers made of dried reeds in China ( 500-170 B.C.). Later, in 105 B.C., Tsai Lun of China invented paper as we know it today.

Invention of paper revolutionized the face of print. Written word became more accessible. In 11th century A.D. Pi Sheng of China starts to print with movable clay type and in 6th century Chinese engravers mastered art of wood-block printing. In 100 A.D. we saw the first bound book on the market.http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/bl_history_of_communication.htm

Before Johann Gutenberg’s invention of printing press, books were produced by scribes based usually monasteries. The process of writing was very laborites. This remained true until the invention of movable type, which is attributed to Jahann Gutenberg of Mainz, Germany, (although the Chinese had a crude version of printing press). Gutenberg was a man of vision and developed movable printing press, which made the process much quicker and cheaper than wood-block printing. However, his investors (Fust and Schoeffer) repossessed his business before the first mass produced book was successfully printed.

Gutenberg’s invention was revolutionary. It was the first mass medium, and allowed for free spread of ideas in a completely unprecedented fashion. The Protestant Reformation might not have occurred without the ability to quickly create thousands of copies of Luther’s Theses for public distribution.http://opax.swin.edu.au/~388226/it_issues/text.htm

Gutenberg’s brilliant idea aided the creation of the first newspaper printed in Germany in 1609. Less than 92 years later, in 1702, England had the first newspaper published daily; it was called the “Daily Courant.” The year 1714 brought another important discovery. Englishman Henry Mill received the first patent for a typewriter. Few years later (1737) Pierre Simon Fournier invented point system in type, which was eventually modified and standardized by Ambroise Didot. In the earlier days of printing, different sizes of type had been called by different names. The system was different in each country and created lots of unnecessary confusion. Fournier and Didot worked out the system where approximately 72 points created one inch. This innovation is still in use in modern day computers. In 1839 woodcuts and lithograph from daguerreotypes decorated pages of magazines. Few decades later, in 1881, development of halftone press made possible to reproduce photographs in books and newspapers. http://xavier.xu.edu:8000/~polt/tw-history.html

In early 19th century the industrial revolution brought major innovations in printing technology. In 1810, Friedrich Koenig applied steam power to printing press. Rotary steam presses replaced hand operated machines, doing the same job in a small fraction of the time. Typesetting was transformed by the introduction of line-casting machines; first Ottmar Mergenthaler’s Linotype (1889), and then the Monotype machine. Line casting allowed type be chosen, used, and then recirculated back into the machine automatically.

The age of industrial revolution made transfer and interchange of written information between cities as well as continents readily available. In 1831 Joseph Henry invented the first electric telegraph, four years later in 1835 Samuel Morse formulated Morse Code, and then in 1843 he also produced the first long distance electric telegraph line. At the same time, Alexander Bain patented the first fax machine. In 1867 Thomas Edison patented his mimeograph, which was the first office-copying machine, which might inspired Chester Carlson , almost a century later, to invent the photocopier machine.

Business life was irreversibly changed with in the introduction to the market of Remington typewriter (1874). Journalism also became more accessible when in 1914 Howard Krum introduced Teletype. Knowledge of Morse Code was no longer needed to distribute information.http://www.acs.ucalgary.ca/%7Eedtech/688/hist.htmhttp://www.knobstick.ca/museum/vhist.htm

In 1935 the first electric typewriter entered the market. However it gained its popularity after WWII. Electronic typewriters allowed for faster typing because the keystrokes were electrically assisted. The golf ball typewriter and Daisy Wheel typewriters allowed for greater range of fonts and styles as these could be changed by changing the golfball or daisywheel cartridge. Many of the electric typewriters allowed for variable line and character spacing.

In 1965 IBM introduced the first word processor. Few years later, in 1979, VisiCalc develops the first spreadsheet program and Wordstar released their first word processing package, which revolutionized our work environment and business world. Word processors were single purpose machines, which allowed for on screen editing and electronic storage. The initial advertising materials for these machines advised managers that they could do the work of five typists. In 1963 we noticed the arrival if the first light pen by MIT. This innovation might have been the beginning of modern computer graphics.http://www.sun.com/960710/feature3/sketchpad.html

Photocomposition, typesetting mode enter the market in 1944, but didn’t catch on untill the early 1950s. Typeface masters for photocomposition are on film; the characters are projected onto photosensitive paper. Lenses are used to adjust the size of the image, scaling the type to desired size. This innovating technology allowed for overlapping characters.

The digital era in typesetting started in early 1970s. The earliest computer-based typesetters were a hybrid between the photocomposition machines and later pure digital output. They each had their own command language for communicating with output devices.

In the late 1980s PostScript gradually emerged as the standard for digital typesetting. This was due to a variety of reasons, including its inclusion in the Apple Laserwriter printer and its powerful graphics handling. When combined with the Macintosh, the first widely used computer, and PageMaker, the first desktop publishing program, gave us the roots of current computer based technology.

Technological advances in printing made possible for books to be more accessible to wider audience. Initially books were privileged items belonging to wealthy level of society. With time books found a way to every knowledge-seeking household in the modern world. In 1786 the first embossed book was published for blind people. The 1904 is a special year for comic book lovers. The first regular comic book entered the market that year. Children were pleased to see their first interactive book in 1940. Dorothy Kunhardt’s “Pat the Bunny,” thought children to think outside of the box by employing multimedia and interactivity.http://home.earthlink.net/~atomic_rom/moments.htmhttp://www.discovery.com/guides/history/historybuff/library/refbraille.html

Nowadays, the print industry goes trough a dry spell. Printing becomes increasingly more expansive. To combat with this problem the industry increased use of digital printers that can efficiently produce high quality paper books on demand. CAP Ventures predicted that within five years, 80% of all print will be ordered via www. This created new model of publishing- so called e-publishing (on demand). The printed book is currently under attack by e-book. Present e-books are handheld devices in which books can be downloaded in a file form and read on a backlit screen using buttons to maneuver through text. There have been also experiments with on-line book distribution by Stephan King, David Saperstein, Mary Higgins and others authors.

Bob Sein, founder of Night Kitchen is currently developing software known as TK-3, enabling authors to write Multimedia Books. Books could be then imbedded with video and audio, searchable sticky notes, Internet links and annobeam for annotations. Children books and reference books, books that need constant updating will benefit from this technology. Children will want to read a book and interact with the characters.

E-books and the Interent will never be able to replace the print version of the book or even to compete with the book. We feel nostalgic about books, we want to flip though pages and collect them. The traditional interaction with a printed book is timeless. http://www.futureprint.kent.edu/articles/henke01.htm,http://www.futureprint.kent.edu/articles/doane01.htm

In 1975 Kurzweil Technologies started to work on first omni-font optical character recognition, first flatbed scanner and first text-to-speech syntheses. The final products entered the market much later but the idea was conceived then. In 1999 Ray Kurzweil received the National Medal of Technology for his developments.http://www.kurzweiltech.com/ktihome.html

Voice recognition systems are commercially available. Medical businesses are currently embracing this technology as well as handicapped people (example: radiologists could input data without getting exposed to x-rays, visually impaired people could use the word processor, etc.).

The 1990s created handwriting recognition system. The Apple Newton is the precursor to widespread handwriting recognition programs, allowing users to directly input their own information and more easily enter data while on the go.

Currently we are working on improving the display of printed media. Our digital technology is trying to compete with ordinary paper as a display medium for printed matter. Dai Nippon Printing (DNP) company’s Central Research Institute has been developing a digital, paper-like medium for information display that can be electronically erased and thermally rewritten many times. http://futureprint.kent.edu/articles/saito01.htm

The Liquid Crystal Institute successfully produced sophisticated weightless, flexible display that operates for many hours using lightweight batteries and exhibiting high resolution and contrast. http://futureprint.kent.edu/articles/west01.htm

Company called E-Ink is creating electrophoretic ink. This ink has high contrast display that can be read easily from any angle just like real print. The secret is in the ink made up of switchable capsules-dark blue in one side and white on the other. The E-ink stays set in one pattern of text until an electric charge switches them into another pattern. The idea is that the liquid electronic ink will typeset itself depending on whatever text it’s programmed to display.

Lucent Technologies and E-Ink came to agreement and are developing paper-like electronic display. The working prototype is a step toward creating electronic newspapers. This paper is called “Radio Paper.” Radio paper acts like digital paper, but would wirelessly receive information that creates the display. The E-Ink’s president Jim Iuliano anticipates a working prototype in three to five years. http://searchwebservices.techtarget.com/sDefinition/0,,sid26_gci535038,00.htmlhttp://eink.com/

Our digital technology is trying to compete with ordinary paper as a display medium for printed matter. Dai Nippon Printing (DNP) company’s Central Research Institute has been developing a digital, paper-like medium for information display that can be electronically erased and thermally rewritten many times.http://futureprint.kent.edu/articles/saito01.htm

The Liquid Crystal Institute successfully produced sophisticated weightless, flexible display that operates for many hours using lightweight batteries and exhibiting high resolution and contrast. http://futureprint.kent.edu/articles/west01.htm

The future of traditional paper, ink and means of communication is still written today. Digital technology has already made a great impact on the way we receive information, read, and communicate with others. I believe that traditionally printed materials will never totally disappear from lives but they might be greatly limited by technological advances. The only problem I see is diminishing number of quality books read by our population as well as lack of manual writing. We seamed to embraced new technology and forget our heritage.


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