The Evolution Of Print. Where Would We Be Without It?

Undoubtedly the most pivotal machine in the history of the print industry was Gutenberg’s printing press of 1439. Although in no way automated, for the first time ever this printing press managed to press books at a speed unfathomable with the single wooden block carvings commonly used prior to its invention. The Gutenberg printing machine had to be operated manually often by two or more people, also requiring the manual application of ink to the text-blocks making it all in all a very long and tiresome process. Although developments were made to this model of printing press there were no significant advancements until the 19th century.

Initial success with automatic printing was found with the steam printing presses of the early 1800’s. Although still very primitive these machines greatly increased the pace at which newspapers could be produced. Of course our printers of today are completely automatic and capable of some astounding feats of ingenuity, not only in the speed of printing, but in the quality of print, the range of typography and graphics now involved and the ability to fold paper so that the top of the range digital printers can publish a full colour glossy magazine in minutes.

So in half a millennia we have witnessed human expression evolve through a number of cultures from the spoken word, to the written word, to print and now with electronic mediums our communication has developed to the current information age. Therefore in this era communication and visual culture are currently being redefined as they are subjected to the digital revolution. The internets effect on our transition of communication is forcing us to rethink text itself. As before with manuscript culture followed by mechanized print culture, the substance of thought was permanent, stamped down as inherent in the nature of the mediums. However now on a digital platform the communication culture is temporal and unfixed again, in the ever changing terrain of the World Wide Web. It has almost come full circle and returned to a state much like it was in its infancy with oral culture, it has returned to the ephemerality that is characteristic of the spoken word.

But don’t throw away your ink jet printers and photocopiers yet. The electronically printed word is still relied on heavily throughout the world especially our affluent west. Early print presses have had a profound impact on our lifestyles today, where would be without our emails on our laptops and SMS messages on our mobile phones, to our daily broadsheets and office timetables. Without the renaissance and industrial revolution we wouldn’t have all the advanced forms of communication we depend on and take for granted such as knowing when our milk is off. It is trivial but vital print such as best before dates on food produce that really escape appreciation but shouldn’t be overlooked.


Source by John Mce

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