Gleick takes us through an intellectual journey of the history of information and communication. He talks about a subject that we are all interested in. But with a topic so complex one must have an understanding of its background. From the drums in Africa to the telegraph, even the alphabet. He goes into much detail, maybe too much detail about the evolution of information of technology. I was very amazed from learning how much information drums conveyed. This messaging system was the best out there. It was much faster than the “fastest horses on good roads”. Later an idea of magnetic needles was considered to transmit information to far distances. But it was centuries later that people would actually communicate fast enough. The next big thing was the F.B. Morse code, where pulses were sent along the telegraph wire. But just like any other technology, the telegraph had its difficulties. Every word that was sent through the wire was assigned a number in which the person on the other end would look them up in a special dictionary. This limited how much information was sent and how often. Even though the Morse code was trial and error, many technologies today derived from it. Just like the drums, the Morse code morphed into innovative technologies that we use today.
It’s quite impressive how much of an impact the drums and the telegraph have made. These new mediums altered the way people communicated. After these inventions the world changed. It seemed that information flowed like water. Of course, it wasn’t expected that these mediums would reach the heights it did. The drums and telegraph were so effective it served as new means of communication and actually substituted for spoken language.
Yes, language existed long before writing but it wasn’t until it was NECESSARY to count ones property or land, that the writing system was developed. Writing is a timeless technology. It has the power to record and retain information for the generations yet to come. “But the new channel does more than extend the previous channel” (Gleick, p 32). Rather than extends, written history expands the knowledge of the current culture. Back then it was paper trails that people left behind. Now, people have traces of text messages, e-mails and blogs as my classmate previously mentioned. Written text has become a thing in the past, unfortunately. Your traditional love letters or note passing in class is extinct. Now it’s the famous staring down at your crotch in class movement. Today’s generation is obsessed with their smart technology. Writing had reshaped the human consciousness but now cyber texting reshaped it yet again. The channels of communication are becoming narrow and constrained by these new technologies. Our dependence on these platforms of information brings not only new power but new fears as Gleick went on to explain in chapters 1-3.