Internet vs Printing Press
Which came first the chicken or the egg? This question conjures up the argument of what was more significant or essential, the vehicle in which the subject came to grow or the subject that gives life to the vehicle. This argument can easily transition to the topic at hand of which advent had a bigger impact on the world, the printing press or the Internet. Throughout history, inventions have constantly been changing the world and how the people within it operate, some having larger impacts than others. Two extremely important inventions of their times have been that of the printing press, and the Internet. These two inventions, although brought about in completely different time periods, have had huge impacts on the world in the areas of education, history, communication and many others. Both of these inventions can be held interchangeable because without the vehicle of the printing press allowing the art of typography to introduce curves and production, where would the creating of emails, web and post scripts be? While the printing press began the revolution of the written word, the Internet came about and transformed the means of communication entirely.
What Had a Bigger Impact On The World?
Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in 1450 was, without a doubt, a world-changing discovery. It changed the lives of people through the new way to spread knowledge. Prior to the printing press, all books were handwritten; taking extreme amounts of time and effort, which caused them to be highly expensive and unaffordable to most people. This caused for a very low education rate throughout the world. The people who were lucky enough to be educated, were given very few books to learn from. If that didn’t make education scarce enough all the books were written in Latin, allowing very little knowledge to spread due to the fact that not everyone knew the Latin language. When the printing press was finally invented it was stated that, “Gutenberg’s press could produce books quickly and with relatively little effort, bookmaking became much less expensive, allowing more people to buy reading material” (Renaissance – Printing and Thinking). As a result of this, the common person had access to any information. Not only were books more frequently available, but also this made them cheaper to produce, allowing for different books to be in the language of the nation, making them readable by anyone who was literate.
“Although most of the earliest books dealt with religious subjects, students, businessmen, and upper and middle class people bought books on all subjects. Printers responded with moralizing, medical, practical and travel manuals. Printing provided a superior basis for scholarship and prevented the further corruption of texts through hand copying. By giving all scholars the same text to work from, it made progress in critical scholarship and science faster and more reliable” (Kreis). Not only was a huge variety of information now more frequently available for all people, but also it was more dependable. Handwritten texts were limited, making it easy for writers back then to use false information without the risk of being double-checked. With the discovery of the printing press, people now had access to written works in all subjects, so if they cam across any false information, it was easy to find.
While all of these impacts from the printing press were revolutionary and completely changed the way the world spreads information and generates, it is not necessarily the greatest impact of all. Although it was the first invention to spread information in a quicker and easier way, when the Internet was designed it was to do exactly that, but superior. It has had the same impact that of the printing press, however a lot stronger and more efficient.
Similar to the intentions of the printing press, the Internet was originally invented as a way of quicker communication. While the printing press had a large impact for its time in the spread of information, the Internet blew it away with the new speed that information could be passed on. While the printing press allowed for more people to get educated and gain knowledge, it could not exceed what the Internet could do. It was impossible with the printing press to send a book to different people around the world in seconds. However the Internet makes these kinds of things possible. Not only has it had a greater impact through its speed, but also through the possibility of sharing information with many people at the same time, throughout the world, within seconds.
While the Internet has had a huge impact on the spread of knowledge and information, it has not stopped there, while the printing press has. The Internet had the impact to connect people worldwide. Along with making information easily available to all people, it has also made it available without even leaving the home. Information can be found instantly without even moving from your seat. Instead of writing a letter and waiting days for a response, e-mail has made it possible to receive letters within minutes of sending. Even better than that, video chat makes it possible to speak to and see people on the other side of the world as if they were sitting in the room with you. This has truly made an impact on long distance family members, businesses and even different clients.
The Internet has also had benefits in saving time as well as money. Online shopping makes shopping much less time consuming. Not only can you make a purchase without leaving your home, but also you can find which website has the best product for the best price quick and easily. Online banking saves time enormously and also reduces the stress of having to make it to the bank in time. It has even made it possible for people to work from home, eliminating traveling time and commuter costs, and increasing flexibility. Also, “office running costs and overheads (rates, electricity, heating etc.) can be reduced, which in turn may reduce the need for office space” (History of the Internet).
Although both innovations are important to our society, the beginning of the Internet had a much greater impact since it was able to affect a much wider range of people. The Internet only exists as a result of the path that the printing press carved for it. The printing press increased the literacy of the entire world by making books produced in mass quantities for less money. However this impact was not seen immediately it took a very long time for this to happen, making the full impact of the printing press not seen for centuries. Where the impact of the Internet was almost instantaneous. Not only was it very quickly and widely available in comparison to the printing press but when people were finally able to access it, they were able to take full advantage since they already had the proper skill set to use it. As a result, the Internet had a much greater impact, not only for its quicker and easier spread of information, but because of all of the other aspects of life that it has impacted as well. While the printing press had a limiting effect on the world of information, the effect of the Internet is infinite and not stopping anytime soon.
Kreis, Steven. “The Printing Press”. The History Guide: Lectures on Modern European
Intellectual History. 13 October 2014 http://historyguide.org/intellect/press.html
“Renaissance – Printing and Thinking”. Annenberg Media. 13 October 2014
“History of the Internet”, Internet Society. 13 October 2014
http://www.internetsociety.org/internet/what-internet/history-internet13 October 2014