The Birth of the Information Age

Samriddho Bhowal. 03/31/2021

Steve went to his favorite bookstore and his parents bought him his favorite book that he's been begging to get for a week! And he finally held it in his hands! But what was the cost? At most, it would probably be within 10 dollars. But if Steve lived before the 15th century, it would be very, very costly…until Johannes Gutenberg came in. He was a German inventor who created the Gutenberg Press, a mechanical printing press, which would entirely change the world. His invention began the Printing Revolution, which played an essential role during the Renaissance all the way to the Scientific Revolution. Through the printing press, information spread and it was accessible to many people around the world.

Back then, books were really hard to make. Each letter and punctuation mark was written by hand. This made books rare and inaccessible objects, as only the wealthiest people could afford it, and information spread very slowly (Spectrum). Gutenberg's Press accelerated that spread across Europe, and what encouraged people to use it was the fact that it was very easy to use, which leads to the next reason. Gutenberg found that printing was more efficient when the individual letters or characters could be moved around, so he made little metal stamps for each character. The stamps were organized inside trays to spell out the text that was needed for each page. The ink was rolled all over the characters, and after that, a large sheet of paper was placed on top. A lever pulled down a flat piece of wood which pressed the paper onto the ink-wetted characters, which made the text on the paper. The press had six trays, so six pages can be printed at once. Now that makes things easy!

This invention is important because many books had been published very quickly using the press, including the first printed version of the Bible. Education also became better for people who weren't able to read before. As a result, the knowledge of information expanded, and people can finally own texts that they would've never been able to buy. But would it be perfect?

Nope. It wasn't too easy yet. Gutenberg and his assistants needed thousands of stamps for six pages, which they spent hours making and inking. Creating books still required a lot of effort, but the expense was a lot less, and information was being shared faster than ever. Steve was really lucky his book wasn't too expensive, or his parents would have no money left!

Spectrum, compiler. Spectrum Grade 5 Science Workbook. Spectrum; Workbook edition, 2014.