If it wasn’t for Johannes Gutenberg I wouldn’t be writing this post. In fact, if it wasn’t for Tim Berners-Lee, I wouldn’t be writing it either.
So who’s Top Dog? Who’s the Big Kahuna? The Head Honcho?
Let’s have a look shall we?
Johannes Gutenberg invented the first movable wooden type printing press in 1436. (Progressing later to metal type.) Known imaginatively as: The Gutenberg Press.
Before I get a plethora of comments saying: Yeah, but the Chinese invented clay movable type 400 years earlier…
Yes they did. And the clue is in the word- “clay”.
Now what’s so special about that? I hear you coo.
Well, it meant that books could be massed produced cheaply. Which lead to mass literacy. Which lead to peasants like my forefathers having the opportunity to better themselves. (Which they never bothered their arses to do.)
The Gutenberg Press is one of the greatest inventions of the modern era. Producing a veritable revolution in the fostering, development and dissemination of the arts, sciences and religion. (Okay, maybe the last one wasn’t such a good idea.)
Books were no longer the sole domain of royalty, church and aristocracy.
The masses had the opportunity to learn. To have their own ideas. And to contribute ideas.
So, if you’re reading this, (and you’re not a member of the royal family), you probably have Johannes Gutenberg to thank for enabling you to do so.
Next up, Sir Tim Berners-Lee father of the World Wide Web, upon which you are reading this post.
As most of you probably know, TB-L invented the first internet-based hypermedia initiative for global information sharing while at CERN in 1989.
And you’ll probably all agree, that the WWW is one of the single greatest inventions ever to be bestowed upon humankind.
If Gutenberg help spread mass literacy, then Berners-Lee has helped spread mass learning.
No longer are we bound by publishers as to what we can and cannot find out. Whether that be across the road at number 22, or across the world at, er… number 23.
Accessing hitherto inaccessible information. The sharing of information instantly. Communicating with people in real time that would otherwise take hours, days or weeks.
What Gutenberg did in 600 ish years, TB-L has achieved in 20.
It is mind-boggling to comprehend the effect the World Wide Web has had in empowering the everyday man, woman and child in their quest for knowledge.
Obviously, there had to be a few other people in the chain such as, Alan Turing – the father of Computer Science and John Atanasoff, the inventor of the first computer, before TB-L could begin to cognize WWW.
But, I doubt that any of these illustrious men would have achieved what they have, had it not been for Johannes Gutenberg.
Some may say the invention of language and writing are of far greater import than merely having the means in which to transcribe them. What good would a book be without words in which to put them?
Og: What’s that?
Ug: It’s a book.
Og: What’s in it?
Og: What use is that?
Ug: It’s a sketch book.
Og: Hang on a minute, me auld hairy sabre-toothed tiger slayer, what are we doing ‘ere?
Ug: Er… I dunno. Chatting?
Og: Exactly! Chatting.
Og: Now, what if you write our, er… “chats” in your little sketch book?
Ug: Then it wouldn’t be a sketch book. It’d be a “chat” book.
Og: Maybe we could have some kind of “picture” for our words?
Ug: A pictogram?
Og: More of a… symbol really. You know, instead of you drawing a woolly mammoth we could have a “wooooord” for it instead. Coz, let’s face it, you can’t draw for shit. I’ve seen the mess you made of the cave.
Ug: You mean a consistent set of phoneme symbols arranged in an alphabet for the translation and dissemination of information?
Og: Yeah, that as well.
And lo, writing was invented.
So… who wins between Gutenberg and Berners-Lee?
Berners-Lee may have driven humankind further, but it was Gutenberg who bought the petrol.
Which leads me to another life-changing invention – the lawnmower.