Imagine bodies of text with thousands of words at a time being rewritten by hand over and over again. The intensity of the labor that scribes went through in order to produce a piece worthy of presenting, and then inevitably having to rinse and repeat the same grueling task for future copies. This was life before any sort of printing machine was invented. Whether it be the development of movable type by the Chinese, or the more notable birth of the printing press in Germany some 400 years later, life was changed for the better with this innovation and opened up a path for future improvements upon the system. Having the impact it did in its respective era and the following centuries, it was only right for the idea to be expanded upon eventually. And half a millennium later, the internet was created. Used every single second of every day by people of all ages and backgrounds, the world wide web has fathered a generation. Its impact on the world is basically immeasurable, but in comparison to that of the printing press, the competition between the two arises. Which had a larger impact on society?
The printing press was invented in Germany by Johannes Gutenberg in the year 1450. For the first time ever, mass publication of texts, mainly the bible, allowed for information to be spread throughout far and wide. While groundbreaking, it took a while for the world to become accustomed to the soon-to-be new norm. A good number of people didn’t know how to read, and the publications weren’t fully distributed all throughout the world. But as it slowly caught on, tweaks and improvements were made to the press and its existence spawned the invention of similar but more effective machines over the next five hundred years.
The impact of the printing press on society was undeniably huge. One can even say that without the printing press, we’d never know the luxury of the internet. While I have no qualms about this, I’m just not convinced Gutenberg’s invention was more impactful than the birth of the internet age. In the year 2013, life without the internet is simply unimaginable. The possibilities it provides have become essential to our daily lives. No longer serving as just a perk, it has grown into a necessity. In our hands, we possess an immeasurable amount of knowledge that is readily available whenever we wish. Learn, teach, create, interact, communicate, etc. the possibilities are seemingly endless, more so than that of the printing press. While virtually the same idea at its core, the internet has elaborated on the concept exponentially. Billions of people are able to log on and link in, whenever they want and wherever they want.
As I said before, those born in the age of the internet couldn’t possibly imagine a world without it. No matter where you go, chances are you’ll find someone zoned in on their smart device of choice, whether it be a tablet, phone or computer. For reasons stated above, this is why I believe the internet had a greater impact on society than the printing press.