Dead Media / Goodbye Monolithic Concepts
*Some quick thoughts on media:
These days the Personal Computer turned 30 (since its mainstream breakthrough / IBM 5150). But what sounds like a young lads celebration rather tastes like a requiem mass. Even if that is pretty dramatic to say it is also true. But what does this tell about hardware media as carrier of information and culture? It seems like the end of monolithic machines and concepts in general with the PC as figurehead to be the last of their kind.
To avoid going back too deep into time let’s look at one of the important events in computer history in the 20th century: Vannevar Bush’s Memex concepts which he elaborated for several years and then described it in his famous As we may think article from 1945. This point in history will be our starting point equally to the first printed book.
Let us hypothetically view the PCs period from the 1940s over the 1960s where it actually got first its name to 1981 in contrast to the period from the first dated printed book until the metal moveable type press of 1440 as something like the R&D phase in which not only technical solutions had to be found but also cultural and social aspects had to develop. This took about 580 years, probably there have been books printed before but lets keep that number for now.
Then after the Gutenberg Bible of 1455 the book entered, obviously not at the same pace as the IBMs and later Macintoshs, the mainstream market. In the following hundreds of years literacy rose slowly and more books got printed. During the industrial revolutions in europe and the related significant economic improvements book production increased and literacy got a big boost. Similar to the introduction of the WWW and PCs becoming affordable Multimedia-workstations in the mid 90s.
Now the events of both protagonists start happening closer to each other: while PCs had their first successes e.g. through desktop publishing and the internet books experienced easy and fast editing and worldwide distribution. But shortly after big publishing houses such as the german Brockhaus, the largest german langue printed encyclopedia, ceased their printed editions and moved to the digital realm.
Even if this is very broadly calculated, but let us summarize: The book due to economical, technological and cultural development took more than 580 years to enter the mainstream market and then constantly rose for another 550 years. The PC on the other hand took about 40 years to enter consumer homes and increased it’s numbers for the following 30 years strongly and probably will carry on for a couple more years even though it’s already outrun by other devices, which doesn’t mean that is gets obsolete.
Be it the tablet, the entertainment console, the window of your car or any other networked device, the future won’t be a universal machine.
One thing for sure can be said. We can’t keep up the pace of changing from one monolithic media device to the next, where we need more time to conceive, understand and construct then we actually use it. What we need, and this is already clearly visible, is to develop devices or even just augment our existing environments with the information which are necessary for work, entertainment and communication.
But should the future of this look like a social web-service pulled over our world?