The Printing Press: Transforming Power of Technology

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Still others, such as calculators and televisions, start out expensive and enjoy a steady drop in price and a concomitant rise in circulation. Where exactly are we with networked computers and where might we wind up? Access to Networked Computers. Reaching pervasiveness depends primarily on access to networked computers being affordable and on people's interest in having that access.

Affordability, in this case, depends on the affordability of both the networking and the connections to the network. Due to its peculiar history, networking itself has been relatively inexpensive since its inception. A crucial element of the Internet dates back to at RAND when Paul Baran developed the concept of packet switching as a means to maintain connectivity of the military command and control network in case of nuclear attack.

Because of the decentralized structure of the ARPANET and a telephone network in place to support it, expansion was easy and the net grew rapidly. If one has a computer, connecting to the Internet costs little or nothing, since each node is independent, and has to handle its own financing and its own technical requirements. While the price of connecting to the Internet has been historically low, it still requires a computer. Though computers continue to drop in price, they still cost several hundred to several thousand dollars new.

On the other hand, computers have enjoyed the longest stretch of uninterrupted exponential growth of any technology known to man. A plethora of available projections show continued uninterrupted exponential growth in performance and exponential decreases in cost, size and power requirements for several more generations. But decreases in cost are usually figured on a performance-per-dollar basis. The price of a new generation of computers is about the same as that of the previous generation.

However, there are other options for connecting to the Internet. This is a computer designed specifically to hook up to the web using an ordinary TV set as the monitor. As far as the interest in networks today, Joel Birnbaum would say we are in the third of four stages for a pervasive technology—where it has become well known and commonplace, but is used directly by only a rather small portion of the population.

Best estimates today say there are at least We know not to trust the timelines of such simple projections, but is there evidence we are headed for saturation? Anecdotal evidence provides some provocative snippets at this point. Computer technology. What will be the situation when the exponential growth of both networking and computers has finally tailed off? It is the many-to-many nature of networked computers rather than the specific technology that is the heart of this paper.

Colleague Bruno Augenstein has suggested the following conservative benchmarks for technology growth in computers and networks at least out to [21]. These computer projections are based on currently-used lithography technologies primarily the nanometer electron-beam lithography in development at IBM.

Lithography can arguably be pushed down to the 5 nanometer range, and more exotic methods based on different phenomenology Scanning-Tunneling Microscopy, molecular machines and self-assembling systems hold promise for making even more remarkable advances. To put these numbers in more graphic terms, a computer of , in a size no bigger than portable computers today, would have the computational power of today's supercomputers, and it would cost about the same as today's portables.

Lesser capabilities would be available at lower costs in much the same way they are today. Projections are for networks worldwide to feature 3-D animated graphics, radio and cellular phone-links to portable computers, as well as fax, voice, and high-definition television. The more conservative projections above will be sufficient to make the case. Uses of networked computers. What about the uses of the Internet? Again, I will depend on today's uses. To review, the current primary functions supported by Internet are four: [22] e-mail, discussion groups, long-distance computing and file transfers.

E-mail is electronic mail that is similar to FAXs. It is global in scope with more than countries accessible today up from in Programmers can maintain accounts on distant, powerful computers, run programs there or write their own. Scientists can make use of powerful supercomputers a continent away. File transfers allow Internet users to access remote machines and retrieve programs or text. Many Internet computers allow anyone to access them anonymously, and to simply copy their public files, free of charge. Internet file-transfers are becoming a new form of publishing, in which the reader simply electronically copies the work on demand, for free.

One aspect of file transfers is the latest rage on the Internet, and embodies an important computer software technology that will figure in the speculations below. As with packet switching, the WWW was developed by physicists at the European Particle Physics Laboratory for a narrow, specific problem creating a unified hypertext markup language HTML [27] network for high-energy physicists working in a variety of locations internationally.

It is leading to is a "point-and-click" way of browsing through the entire Internet. With browsers such as Netscape Communicator or Microsoft Explorer, the user can "surf" the Internet in a more user-friendly way. Further, making current Internet documents compatible is easy: "Using a relatively simple set of commands, World Wide Web users can turn their documents into hypertext: nsert the proper bit of code, and a word becomes a link; At this point let me draw a very conservative picture of a networked computer system in the year The network will have a wide variety of computers connected to it, including personal computers with the memory and processing capabilities of today's supercomputers.

A disproportionate percentage of computer ownership and network usage will be in White and Asian households, in the upper quartile of income and belonging to college graduates. At least three of today's network functions will still be popular: discussion groups, e-mail, and file transfers. Most major domestic and many foreign libraries, universities and governments will be accessible through the network with direct access to millions of individual documents. As to where we are on the "curve," I am suggesting that we will get "that far" before the curve starts to tail off.

More importantly, I am suggesting that "that far" is critical mass in terms of making the system permanent. It may not yet be pervasive in the sense the Birnbaum uses it, but it will be at least as pervasive and permanent as books were in their early history. I want to conclude this section by trying to put the projected network in perspective. While the projections were deliberately conservative the projected system is not conservative when compared with the telephone system.

The networked computer system I have posited for will, thus, achieve "ubiquity" in a way that radio transmitters and CBs did not , at least in the United States and potentially worldwide. This positions it to have a significant impact on society and culture. Next, I want to argue that the impact of networked computers could lead to changes as profound as those that took place in Europe in the "Renaissance" period AD. To do that, I will rely on arguments that the impact of the printing press was importantly responsible for the changes that took place during that period.

While the history of the printing press has been studied voluminously, its effects on society have received little attention. Elizabeth Eisenstein's book, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change , [31] was the first and is still the only comprehensive attempt to study the impact of the printing press. Before the publication of her book in , historians generally conceded the role of the printing press in weakening the power of the medieval church, but gave it little credit beyond its assist to Luther and his Protestant Reformation.

Eisenstein persuasively implicated the printing press in the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution as well, magnifying both the breadth and depth of its impact. Her latter views are more controversial. Since I will rely heavily on those views, I want to describe briefly both what those views are and how they have been received by the community of historians in general. Eisenstein's work was provoked by Marshall McLuhan's similar less carefully researched notion that the printing press was an important watershed [32] and her book created a stir among her fellow historians.

Krummel echoed the sentiments of many in writing:. Historians before Eisenstein generally studied the invention of printing, but not its long-run impact. She took seriously Bacon's aphorism,. Eisenstein argues that the printing press changed the conditions under which information was collected, stored, retrieved, criticized, discovered, and promoted. She recognizes explicitly that change is multi-causal, but argues that—as an agent—printing had important causative effects on the Reformation, the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution.

I will leave significant details to the section on the changes enabled by the technologies, but before then, a general discussion of the causative effects of printing is in order. Eisenstein, better than anyone, recognized the difficulty in trying to establish the impact of the printing press.

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As she points out, "the first century of printing produced a bookish culture that was not very different from that produced by scribes," [37] and "one must wait until a full century after Gutenberg before the outlines of new world pictures begin to emerge into view. This long delay between cause and "sorted out" effect is not surprising when the effects are cultural and profound.

It does, however, complicate establishment of the cause-and-effect relationship. Given the difficulties, the strength of Eisenstein's work is her careful argumentation about the connection between a given cultural change—seen clearly only many decades after the invention of the printing press—and the more tangible changes brought about by printing. The following summaries of her arguments for the impact of printing on each of the Reformation, the Renaissance, and the Scientific Revolution, draw heavily on summaries made in the several reviews of her book.

Eisenstein's arguments about the impact of the printing press on the Reformation are aptly summarized by Kingdon:. Eisenstein argues that, while the medieval Catholic church was a prolific user of printing, the changes it wrought were outside the control of the church.

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The proliferation of different biblical texts eventually cast into doubt the existence of a single infallible text. This led to alternative interpretations such as Luther's, but the ability to publicize those interpretations by the same means of printing kept them from being crushed as were earlier heresies. As for the Renaissance, it began well before the invention of the printing press. Historians credit Petrarch with its origins in the mid-fourteenth century in Northern Italy. The "renaissance," or "rebirth," refers to a return to the humanism of the classical Greeks.

To argue the causative effects of printing, Eisenstein divides the Renaissance into pre- and post-printing phases. Two of the largest were the Carolingian in the 9th century and one in the 12th century. As Marvin points out,. Eisenstein points out that the Italian renaissance differed little from earlier ones until the printing press "fixed" it and helped spread it north of the Alps.

Ideas recorded in only a few manuscripts were always in danger of being forgotten or lost by the intellectual community. Put those same ideas in hundreds of identical printed copies, and they were much more likely to spread and endure. Eisenstein suggests that before the printing press, the fall of Constantinople and its extensive collection of classical texts , in , would have been disastrous for humanism.

Another argument applies to all three of the major events of the printing press era, but perhaps best to the Scientific Revolution. This is the idea that the printing press changed attitudes towards the past. As Mander puts it,. Eisenstein argues that this change in attitude led to a willingness to question the ancients and to consider new ideas; fueling both the rise of humanism and Protestantism.

In science, the notion of cumulative and progressive knowledge was absolutely revolutionary. This change in culture is captured neatly in:. These summaries do little justice to the case Eisenstein builds for the impact of the printing press. While not all historians share her enthusiasm, there is a general concession that the impact of print has been under-researched and, thereby, underestimated.

The printing press was not the only change taking place in the period from to , just as networked computers are not the only change taking place today. Nonetheless, Eisenstein's research is clear evidence that the printing press had a profound effect on society during the time Europe was making the transition from a medieval to a modern world. The stage is set, then, to draw parallels between the change-producing capabilities enabled by the printing press and those enabled by networked computers.

At this point, I am supposing that: networked computers are here to stay; they represent a change in communications many-to-many unlike any we have seen since the printing press one-to-many ; the printing press had profound implications for society; and parallels between the changes brought about by these two advances in communications media will help us better appreciate the potential for societal change from networked computers. The one-to-many nature of the printing press had important effects on several fronts relating to the manipulation of knowledge.

These effects are seen in retrospect. I would like to draw parallels between those changes enabled in the printing press era with similar changes in the networked computer era, but we can't see the latter in retrospect, yet. So I need to be careful in what I mean by a parallel between a change in the manipulation of knowledge enabled by the printing press and one enabled by networked computers. Here, then, are the ground rules for each of the parallels in this section:. A word about the format of the titles of the parallels: The second part of the title attempts to capture the essence of the capabilities in each of the scribal, print and networked computers eras.

The printing press will be "responsible" for the change from the capability in the scribal era to that in the print era and networked computers will be responsible for the change from the capability in the print era to that of networked computers. To separate the change brought about by the printing press from that brought about by networked computers, I'll insert a line of asterisks in the text for clarity.

Finally, I consider these five examples to be in increasing order of speculative content. The early ones seem quite defensible, while the later ones are both more tentative and potentially contrary to our current culture. The printing press didn't create the book, it changed or redefined it. In the scribal culture, books or manuscripts were produced laboriously by scribes, each slightly different from other copies of the book. Errors in one manuscript were propagated to the next copy of that manuscript, and new errors were typically added. The knowledge or thought that resided in a manuscript was available to very few to read or to own.

As they read a given manuscript, their marginal notes added any corrective or additive thoughts they may have. As scholars wandered, they carried the knowledge from the manuscript with them and could offer it to others. The paucity of manuscripts and wandering scholars made the preservation of knowledge precarious at best. The effects of the printing press on this situation were enormous. One cannot doubt its impact on the preservation and dissemination of knowledge. Thousands of copies of a single manuscript virtually assured both its survival and spread.

Even if restricted primarily to the wealthy, the sheer numbers of available books made them much more available to the general public. Updating the knowledge in books had a more subtle and interesting history. In the early stages, printed books still contained and propagated errors, but their wider availability slowly had a dramatic effect.

Eisenstein and others argues that this feedback reversed the slow degradation of recorded thought and ushered in the era of accumulation of thought upon which the Scientific Revolution was built:. The many-to-many communications medium of networked computers enables the process of preserving, updating and disseminating knowledge to be carried one or two steps further to the immediately available, instant feedback, constantly-updated, "3-dimensional" non-fiction book.

There are two important aspects to this. The first relates specifically to the updating of knowledge. A well-documented book can do a creditable job of addressing all the knowledge and thought up to the time of its publication, but can't address even the reaction to itself, let alone the thoughts it provokes. Subsequent editions are used to correct this "problem," but are rarely published less than a year more commonly years for reference works after the original. At that point, parts of the first edition are obsolete, but there is no good way to so indicate on a first edition copy.

After a group such as sci. At some point, a regular user will offer to generate a FAQ—a list of frequently asked questions and answers that represent the author's concept of the group consensus. The FAQ will then be posted to the group and recommended changes can be discussed and incorporated the many-to-many part in action. The resulting FAQ is then archived and posted periodically in some groups , to be referred to when one of the questions is brought up again and to be updated as necessary again taking advantage of the potentially wide readership and discussion capabilities.

The sci. More generally, any "official" site can be the location to check for the latest on an unfolding situation. Literally millions [47] of enthusiasts could stay as current as they wished in a way previously available only through hour coverage by traditional broadcast media. Another activity that takes advantage of many-to-many feedback capability is on-line journals. The Association of Research Libraries ARL counted 74 peer-reviewed electronic journals at the beginning of , and a year later.

The second aspect of change with networked computers is that of hypertext linking and relates more to how knowledge is disseminated. From the printing press era, encyclopedias do a good job of providing pointers to other reference material on a given subject. With hypertext linking, this referencing becomes immediate.

If the reader has an interest in further information, a click on the hypertext link will take the reader to that information. This capability opens the book into a new dimension with immediate accessibility to definitions of words, alternative means say, more visually-oriented of understanding a concept, active discussions of a given topic, further research on the subject, alternative interpretations, etc. The dissemination of knowledge is importantly changed by the immediacy of this new referencing capability.

It takes important advantage of the many-to-many capabilities of the Internet both in the sense of the interconnectivity with data from all over the network, but also in the sense that building the individual pieces of an "Internet book" can—and from an efficiency standpoint, must—be done by a large group of people. Ironically, both the FAQ and hypertext capabilities work best with a single copy of a work that is accessible by anyone on the network. The same was true of manuscripts in the scribal culture. What makes the two communications breakthroughs important are the quantum increases in the ease and speed with which knowledge could be promulgated; feedback could be received and incorporated; one could find up-to-date knowledge and one could be put in touch with a wide range of materials on the topic.

I'm uncomfortable suggesting just what the social impact will be of the Internet book. On the other hand, anyone who would argue there will be little impact must argue that the same kind of jump increase in speed and ease of updating and disseminating knowledge that led to dramatic changes in the printing press era will not have much of an effect in the networked computers era. In the scribal era, the ability to retrieve information was largely dependent on an individual's recall capabilities.

There were numerous mnemonic devices to aid the individual memory. The ability to retrieve information took a significant jump in moving to the print culture. Indexes to books existed in the scribal culture, but were not systematically enforced. But indexes were just the iceberg tip. The printed book brought a variety of changes that led to a more orderly, systematic approach to the printed word: title pages, regularly numbered pages, punctuation marks, section breaks, running heads, tables of contents, etc. All of these had their obvious and subtle effects. Bibliographies, book catalogues and encyclopedias flourished thanks to these systematic changes brought about by the printing press.

These, in turn, contributed to the retrieval of and critical reflection on published works and the accumulation of knowledge that characterized particularly the Scientific Revolution. In fact, cataloguing of all kinds became popular. By some 6, varieties had been catalogued. The ability to retrieve information has taken another significant jump in the age of computers. Eisenstein says of the printing press, "Until the recent advent of computers, has there been any other invention which saved so many man-hours for learned men? Typical word processing programs have the ability to search through entire documents at high speed for phrases, words, or partial words.

Ordinary algorithms can search hundreds of pages in seconds. Oft-searched documents—such as dictionaries or encyclopedias—can be formatted so that similar searches take fractions of a second. Specialized routines can search for word patterns such as all five-letter words that start with "b", followed by two consecutive vowels. This is a powerful "indexing" capability that doesn't rely particularly on the many-to-many nature of networked computers.

Encyclopedias on CD-ROMs permit quick retrieval of widely disparate entries that contain specific words or phrases. On the other hand, for several years, libraries have had the capability to electronically search for words or word combinations in the titles or keywords of documents in a wide variety of remote databases. Further details on the "hits" could be accessed as well. What networked computers enable is the combination of these two capabilities.

Anyone connected with the network can become a "super librarian," searching remote databases via full-text search for any combination of words imaginable. Colleague Jim Gillogly tells of writing a document recently and wanting to include a half-remembered quote from "Little Women. In the same way that indexes were only a part of the retrieval revolution in the printing press era, full-text search is part of a wider computerized search that is changing the way people access knowledge. A good example here is the variety of "search engines" for the Internet itself. A recent personal communication about a young woman who found her estranged father through the Internet suggests the breadth of information retrieval capabilities that such search engine developers could hope to provide.

Such "data-mining" tools are still in their infancy in the network culture, but are sure to be as significant as their counterparts in the printing press culture. Libraries will undergo tremendous change in the network culture, as librarians are well aware. Before printing there was little "ownership" of intellectual property. The Bible is a classical example.

Who wrote the Bible? Many parts that are attributed to specific authors are various rememberings of what the author actually wrote or said. The same is true with other ancient manuscripts attributed to single authors—including those of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. It wasn't until the printed book that the notion of literary property rights developed. In fact, the first rights were "privileges" and were granted, not to authors, but to printers.

Upon these foundations a burgeoning bureaucracy would build a vast and complex legal structure. Eisenstein argues that this pride of authorship helped fuel the individualism that characterized the Renaissance. She also argues that the title page came to have promotional value for both author and printer, and that control of and the requirement for the publicity apparatus gave printers an important role in the rise of capitalism. In recent years, copyright protection has been extended to computer software programs, highlighting the problems of copyrights and computers in general.

As John Perry Barlow says in a seminal work on intellectual property and networked computers:. The pirating of software was a problem before widespread networking of computers, but, again, the many-to-many aspect of networks dramatically exacerbates the situation.

It enables some would say it encourages the unlimited reproduction and instantaneous distribution of digitized intellectual property of any kind worldwide virtually without cost. A good joke travels even faster on the Internet than it does on the street. Copyrighting will not work on networked computers.

Barlow likens copyrighting on networks to a leaking boat and suggests, colorfully, that legal efforts to adjust current canon to apply to the Internet "are taking three forms: a frenzy of deck chair rearrangement, stern warnings to the passengers that if she goes down, they will face harsh criminal penalties, and serene, glassy-eyed denial. He then ends with three maxims that he believes will hold true for whatever replaces copyrights on networks:. Copyrights and patents evolved slowly in response to perceived problems of intellectual ownership emanating from the unique properties of printing.

The problems introduced by networks would appear to be no less confounding. If Barlow is right, networked computers have enabled another period of evolution in intellectual property rights with the outcome very uncertain at this point. One of the immediate and recognizable impacts of the printing press was on how one learned.

In educating the elite in the scribal culture, manuscripts were scarce, learning primarily involved listening to someone read a manuscript or give a lecture , and—as above—memorization was paramount. Apprenticeship training and memorization were the primary means of educating the underclasses. That the printing press wrought significant changes in this system of learning cannot be doubted.

As Eisenstein says,. The structural changes are clear. People shifted from being listeners to being readers. Learning no longer required the presence of a mentor; it could be done privately. People talk of celebrated auto-didacts such as Tycho Brahe and Isaac Newton who learned primarily by reading. Such dramatic structural changes should lead to significant societal and cultural changes, but pinning those secondary changes down is very difficult.

Eisenstein emphasizes the difficulties by finding, for example, that despite the supposed shift from image to word, there was a reinforcement of the use of images in both printed works and art books. Similarly, while a reading public was more dispersed and communal solidarity thereby diminished , vicarious participation in more distant events was enhanced. When subjected to careful historical scrutiny, "grand" theories about the implications of a culture of readers have been difficult to defend.

More restrictive theories fare better. The transformation of learners from listeners to readers, then, was a complex social and cultural phenomenon. It was also incomplete. Not until the industrial era did the concept of universal literacy take root. Nonetheless, it is generally conceded that, despite the ambiguity of its effects and its incompleteness, this transformation to learning by reading was a fundamental change in a world that was going from medieval to modern.

Despite the invention and widespread utilization of other potential education-affecting technologies such as film, radio, and television, formal learning is still largely reading based today. Computers, too, have the potential to affect how people interact with knowledge. In the western world, computers have inched their way into the curricula from kindergarten to graduate school. Their successes have been modest and their failures have been legion.

Yet, even though we have not seen the full promise of networked computers, there are indications that they will enable a fundamentally different kind of interaction with knowledge. The first people to deal with computers were "programmers. Early educational computer programs had users doing "drill and practice" exercises. These were interactive, but crude and repetitive. More recent efforts have young users interacting with the computer to develop correspondence via e-mail , keyboarding, writing, editing, and publishing skills. Current encyclopedias on CD-ROMs represent a further step in this evolution of computer interactions.

Full-text search capabilities allow instantaneous access to any word in the encyclopedia. In combination, full-text search, hypertext, multimedia and similar technologies provide a capability to interact with knowledge in a way that was unattainable before computers. They provide a user access to knowledge that is multimedia oriented and less sequential than the printed book.

Again, these are available on standalone computers and not dependent on networks, but a CD-ROM in this context is just a "superbook"—frozen at production. Connecting with the network adds three capabilities: access to a much wider array of knowledge, the potential for access to constantly-updated knowledge, and on-line help today in the form of news groups and individuals that are available to answer questions.

Serious questions asked in today's newsgroups rarely go unanswered. Consider the auto-didact in the world of networked computers. These capabilities open up the possibility of just-in-time learning—having the ability to access information on a topic of immediate concern the best time for learning in ways that are self-paced and matched to a variety of learning styles. Whether these capabilities will be available on the "ultimate" network of computers or will be widely utilized are separate questions.

It is clear from today's technology and industry focus, however, that networked computers enable a much more interactive user of knowledge. Further, that ability to interact is unique to the many-to-many communications era. Every successful technology has unintended consequences.

Sometimes the consequences are an inconvenience—cellular phones have created a tremendous burden on Forest Rangers because of the number of hikers who call asking for directions or assistance. Sometimes the unintended consequences are more serious—microwave ovens can be fatal for people with heart pacemakers. And sometimes the unintended consequences come to dominate the intended ones—Edward Tenner, for example, writes of methods for preventing forest fires that have been so effective in preserving dry underbrush that wildfires are now enormous conflagrations, destroying forests that survived lesser fires for centuries.

We are also seeing some provocative unintended consequences surrounding networking technologies. In the printing press era, there were efforts in both religion and science to "clean up the manuscripts"; to take the now-available copies of a variety of manuscripts and to edit and correct them into a clean copy. Briefly, the effort in religion was a failure; that in science, a success. But the more significant outcome was that, in each case, the effort to clean up the manuscript helped send its respective discipline on an importantly new trajectory.

The work of Erasmus paved the way for the Protestant Reformation and the work of Copernicus upset the entirety of Medieval cosmology. One can argue a variety of other major and minor unintended consequences, but these two absolutely dominated their respective intended consequences and arguably helped bring the European nation-states to world power. Has anything similar happened in the network age? Chris Kedzie argues there are causative links between democracy and interconnectivity. He cites the Soviet Union having introduced or allowed new information technologies for economic reasons and found they played a role in supporting the emergence of democracy.

Less arguable are some dominating unintended consequences associated with the networking technology itself. A good example here is the variety of "search engines" for the Internet itself. A recent personal communication about a young woman who found her estranged father through the Internet suggests the breadth of information retrieval capabilities that such search engine developers could hope to provide. Such "data-mining" tools are still in their infancy in the network culture, but are sure to be as significant as their counterparts in the printing press culture.

Libraries will undergo tremendous change in the network culture, as librarians are well aware. Before printing there was little "ownership" of intellectual property. The Bible is a classical example. Who wrote the Bible? Many parts that are attributed to specific authors are various rememberings of what the author actually wrote or said.

The same is true with other ancient manuscripts attributed to single authors—including those of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. It wasn't until the printed book that the notion of literary property rights developed. In fact, the first rights were "privileges" and were granted, not to authors, but to printers. Upon these foundations a burgeoning bureaucracy would build a vast and complex legal structure. Eisenstein argues that this pride of authorship helped fuel the individualism that characterized the Renaissance. She also argues that the title page came to have promotional value for both author and printer, and that control of and the requirement for the publicity apparatus gave printers an important role in the rise of capitalism.

In recent years, copyright protection has been extended to computer software programs, highlighting the problems of copyrights and computers in general. As John Perry Barlow says in a seminal work on intellectual property and networked computers:. The pirating of software was a problem before widespread networking of computers, but, again, the many-to-many aspect of networks dramatically exacerbates the situation.

It enables some would say it encourages the unlimited reproduction and instantaneous distribution of digitized intellectual property of any kind worldwide virtually without cost. A good joke travels even faster on the Internet than it does on the street. Copyrighting will not work on networked computers.

Barlow likens copyrighting on networks to a leaking boat and suggests, colorfully, that legal efforts to adjust current canon to apply to the Internet "are taking three forms: a frenzy of deck chair rearrangement, stern warnings to the passengers that if she goes down, they will face harsh criminal penalties, and serene, glassy-eyed denial. He then ends with three maxims that he believes will hold true for whatever replaces copyrights on networks:.

Copyrights and patents evolved slowly in response to perceived problems of intellectual ownership emanating from the unique properties of printing. The problems introduced by networks would appear to be no less confounding. If Barlow is right, networked computers have enabled another period of evolution in intellectual property rights with the outcome very uncertain at this point.

One of the immediate and recognizable impacts of the printing press was on how one learned. In educating the elite in the scribal culture, manuscripts were scarce, learning primarily involved listening to someone read a manuscript or give a lecture , and—as above—memorization was paramount. Apprenticeship training and memorization were the primary means of educating the underclasses. That the printing press wrought significant changes in this system of learning cannot be doubted.

As Eisenstein says,. The structural changes are clear. People shifted from being listeners to being readers. Learning no longer required the presence of a mentor; it could be done privately. People talk of celebrated auto-didacts such as Tycho Brahe and Isaac Newton who learned primarily by reading. Such dramatic structural changes should lead to significant societal and cultural changes, but pinning those secondary changes down is very difficult. Eisenstein emphasizes the difficulties by finding, for example, that despite the supposed shift from image to word, there was a reinforcement of the use of images in both printed works and art books.

Similarly, while a reading public was more dispersed and communal solidarity thereby diminished , vicarious participation in more distant events was enhanced. When subjected to careful historical scrutiny, "grand" theories about the implications of a culture of readers have been difficult to defend. More restrictive theories fare better.

The transformation of learners from listeners to readers, then, was a complex social and cultural phenomenon. It was also incomplete. Not until the industrial era did the concept of universal literacy take root. Nonetheless, it is generally conceded that, despite the ambiguity of its effects and its incompleteness, this transformation to learning by reading was a fundamental change in a world that was going from medieval to modern.

Despite the invention and widespread utilization of other potential education-affecting technologies such as film, radio, and television, formal learning is still largely reading based today. Computers, too, have the potential to affect how people interact with knowledge. In the western world, computers have inched their way into the curricula from kindergarten to graduate school. Their successes have been modest and their failures have been legion. Yet, even though we have not seen the full promise of networked computers, there are indications that they will enable a fundamentally different kind of interaction with knowledge.

The first people to deal with computers were "programmers. Early educational computer programs had users doing "drill and practice" exercises. These were interactive, but crude and repetitive. More recent efforts have young users interacting with the computer to develop correspondence via e-mail , keyboarding, writing, editing, and publishing skills. Current encyclopedias on CD-ROMs represent a further step in this evolution of computer interactions.

Full-text search capabilities allow instantaneous access to any word in the encyclopedia. In combination, full-text search, hypertext, multimedia and similar technologies provide a capability to interact with knowledge in a way that was unattainable before computers. They provide a user access to knowledge that is multimedia oriented and less sequential than the printed book.

Again, these are available on standalone computers and not dependent on networks, but a CD-ROM in this context is just a "superbook"—frozen at production. Connecting with the network adds three capabilities: access to a much wider array of knowledge, the potential for access to constantly-updated knowledge, and on-line help today in the form of news groups and individuals that are available to answer questions. Serious questions asked in today's newsgroups rarely go unanswered. Consider the auto-didact in the world of networked computers. These capabilities open up the possibility of just-in-time learning—having the ability to access information on a topic of immediate concern the best time for learning in ways that are self-paced and matched to a variety of learning styles.

Whether these capabilities will be available on the "ultimate" network of computers or will be widely utilized are separate questions. It is clear from today's technology and industry focus, however, that networked computers enable a much more interactive user of knowledge. Further, that ability to interact is unique to the many-to-many communications era.

Every successful technology has unintended consequences. Sometimes the consequences are an inconvenience—cellular phones have created a tremendous burden on Forest Rangers because of the number of hikers who call asking for directions or assistance. Sometimes the unintended consequences are more serious—microwave ovens can be fatal for people with heart pacemakers.

And sometimes the unintended consequences come to dominate the intended ones—Edward Tenner, for example, writes of methods for preventing forest fires that have been so effective in preserving dry underbrush that wildfires are now enormous conflagrations, destroying forests that survived lesser fires for centuries. We are also seeing some provocative unintended consequences surrounding networking technologies. In the printing press era, there were efforts in both religion and science to "clean up the manuscripts"; to take the now-available copies of a variety of manuscripts and to edit and correct them into a clean copy.

Briefly, the effort in religion was a failure; that in science, a success. But the more significant outcome was that, in each case, the effort to clean up the manuscript helped send its respective discipline on an importantly new trajectory. The work of Erasmus paved the way for the Protestant Reformation and the work of Copernicus upset the entirety of Medieval cosmology. One can argue a variety of other major and minor unintended consequences, but these two absolutely dominated their respective intended consequences and arguably helped bring the European nation-states to world power.

Has anything similar happened in the network age? Chris Kedzie argues there are causative links between democracy and interconnectivity. He cites the Soviet Union having introduced or allowed new information technologies for economic reasons and found they played a role in supporting the emergence of democracy.

Less arguable are some dominating unintended consequences associated with the networking technology itself. Two have already been alluded to. By its second year of operation, users had "warped the computer-sharing network into a dedicated, high-speed, federally subsidized electronic post-office. Even Paul Baran, although he recognized early on that packet switching could lead to a large domestic communications net, was originally intent on developing a network that could withstand a nuclear attack.

A fourth dominating unintended consequence may be in the making. The Java language, that some suggest will dominate applications on the WorldWide Web and could bring the downfall of Microsoft, [74] was originally developed for programming consumer electronic gadgets.

Digital transformation and the utility of the future | Deloitte Insights

In the information age, then, we are already seeing some examples of the dominance of unintended consequences over intended ones. Particularly in light of similarities with the printing press era, it would be surprising indeed if there weren't more dominating unintended consequences to come.

This is not to suggest that we shouldn't take action for fear of unintended consequences. Far from it. It is to suggest that we are beyond our cause-and-effect reasoning abilities when it comes to networked computers and that we should be prepared for—and actively seeking—unintended consequences of actions we do take. So far I've concentrated on what networked computers enable on the "bright" side of the parallels with the printing press era.

It is worth digressing briefly to mention two other aspects: 1 what networks enable on the "dark" side, and 2 what they might enable that have no good printing press parallels. There was a dark side to the printing press. Eisenstein mentions it only briefly and then fences it off from further discussion , but there were propaganda wars, secret societies, and other abuses that were created or enhanced by the capabilities of the printing press. Without trying to draw specific parallels in this area, we are already seeing some of the dark side of networked computers. Colleague Jim Gillogly has catalogued some of the more egregious:.

This small sampling is included here to point out: 1 the obvious—that not all uses of networks are high-minded, and 2 that it might be worth trying to sort out those abuses that are common to other new communications media such as telephones, CB radios, video cameras, etc.

The more entertaining digression deals with those things networks enable that have no apparent parallel in the printing press. An example from Gillogly will suffice:. While these connections have the flavor of clever tricks, interfacing with machines other than computers or the computers of other machines opens up a potentially interesting complication in divining the impact of networks.

There are some provocative parallels between the communications changes enabled by networked computers and those enabled by the printing press in its early days. Each defining technology represents an important breakthrough in the ability of humans to communicate with each other; each enables important changes in how we preserve, update and disseminate knowledge; how we retrieve knowledge; the ownership of knowledge; and how we acquire knowledge.

The printing press era was dominated by unintended consequences of applications of the technology and we are already seeing the dominance of unintended consequences in some areas of networked computers. Despite the strength of the parallels between the two eras, it would be unwarranted to conclude that the network era will progress as did the printing press era. However, the strength of the parallels does suggest that: 1 networked computers could produce profound cultural changes in our time, 2 unintended consequences are not only possible but likely to upset conventional extrapolations of current trends or even historical parallels , and 3 the changes could take decades to see clearly.

Further, the strength of the parallels suggests some "lessons learned" from the printing press era would make for prudent policy today. The parallels discussed here between the printing press era and the networked computer era suggest at least two important implications for policy making.

The first has to do with regulation of networked computers or the Internet. For this it is particularly instructive to look at the printing press and its effect or lack thereof outside Europe. After all, the first movable type of baked clay was made in China in AD; the first practical wooden movable type was also developed in China around AD; and the first metal movable type preceded that in Korea in the thirteenth century. Eisenstein largely ignores this aspect of the problem, but more recent work has addressed it. Some examples will provide a flavor of their findings.

Several authors point out the obvious difficulty in China—the thousands of ideograms required by written Chinese made printing on a large scale impractical. Macioti adds [78] that Chinese inks were watery and not well suited to metal type. Korea is even more interesting. At the prodding of King Sejong in , an alphabet of twenty-five letters was developed. Korean printers and scholars, however, stubbornly hung on to traditional Chinese characters, perhaps depriving themselves of a Renaissance and Scientific Revolution. In the Islamic community—seat of scientific progress from to AD—great Islamic empires arose about the time of the printing press and effectively suppressed that technology until the nineteenth century, when it did transform the culture.

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Robinson speculates that printing threatened the fundamental oral transmission of the Quran, delaying introduction of the printing press into Islamic culture for four centuries. Even in Europe, the role of Protestantism in the Scientific Revolution is instructive. In centralized Roman Catholic countries, censorship of Copernicus and others seriously affected printers; but in Protestant countries with weaker central governments, there were no risks involved in printing science. It was primarily Protestant Dutch printers that kept the Scientific Revolution alive in the early 17th century.

Countries that failed to take advantage of the printing press fell behind Europe. Those that strictly suppressed the printing press fell were eclipsed on the world stage.

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Even in Europe, countries that tried to suppress "dangerous" aspects of the printing press suffered. This strongly suggests that the advantages of the printing press outweighed the disadvantages. Further, it suggests that, in retrospect, it was more important to explore the upside of the technology than to protect against the downside. In the information age this suggests to me that the Internet should remain unregulated.

The printing press was and is regulated to some extent, but those countries that regulated the printing press least gained the most. This should be a powerful argument in favor of regulating the Internet as little as possible. We should work through the problems of pornography, copyright protection and other such problems, rather than risk throwing the baby out with the bath water.

The second general implication is more diffuse. To suggest adopting a policy of experimentation, paying particular attention to unintended consequences, seems weak gruel indeed from such supposedly powerful parallels. Rather, this recommendation comes from an explicit recognition of the possibility that unintended consequences are likely to dominate in the information age and from a sense that—as with the printing press—this is a long term enterprise with success most likely going to those who have explored the possibilities most thoroughly.

If the future is to be dominated by unintended consequences, it would be a good idea to get to those consequences as quickly as possible and to work to recognize them when they appear. In some cases this won't be a problem. Where working to spot and take advantage of unintended consequences becomes a more telling implication is with regard to institutions—such as the educational system or the government—that move slowly and risk being overrun by those unintended consequences as was the Catholic Church in the printing press era.

How then, can a policy of experimentation help? An interesting example comes from the way the Internet adopts new technical standards. As an accident of history Internet standards have been largely bottom-up, de facto , narrowly focused and near-term. This should make its specifications rigid and short-lived, but the experience has been different and the reasons for that are instructive. Its general mode of operation is to convene working groups to solve near-term technical difficulties.

Printing press

The process takes advantage of the many-to-many capabilities of the Internet in at least three important ways: First, the working groups largely do their work open to anyone on the Internet which enormously increases the number and diversity of people who can contribute. Second, proposed solutions are made available to anyone with Internet access. This is in marked contrast with other standards organizations and permits better analysis and broader use.

Third, "The Internet, itself, provides a very large scale live test environment and as is often true with software, once it passes the test it is instantly used in production. If a working group's efforts are not useful, this is quickly evident before the work is made into a standard. It remains to be seen whether this approach to standards will be short-lived though the approach is still largely used even as the Internet has grown to mammoth proportions , whether it is an artifact of the Internet technologies, or whether the many-to-many capabilities are that crucial to its success.

Nonetheless, it stands as a provocative example of how small-scale experimentation coupled with the many-to-many capabilities of the Internet have produced important results in a manner that confounds traditional thinking. It is this kind of small, open experimentation that takes advantage of the Internet that is, for me, an important implication of the parallels between the era of networked computers and that of the printing press. The final implication is more personal.

A more thoroughgoing exploration of the parallels between the printing press era and the information age may reveal further insights into policy making.

Johannes Gutenberg and the Printing Press

This is particularly true in the area least explored by Eisenstein—the negative consequences of the printing press, including the spread of pornography, secret societies and the like. How they were handled in that day may yield suggestions for how to deal with similar problems today. Robert H. Anderson , Christopher Kedzie , Tora K. Bikson , Brent R. Mitchell , Joel Pliskin , Padmanabhan Srinagesh. Richard Neu , Robert H. Anderson , Tora K. Matthias Schonlau , Ronald D. Fricker , Marc N. Dewar We are in the midst of the "Information Age. Specifically, I want to argue that the parallels between the printing press era and today are sufficiently compelling to suggest : Changes in the information age will be as dramatic as those in the Middle Ages in Europe.

The printing press has been implicated in the Reformation, the Renaissance and the Scientific Revolution, all of which had profound effects on their eras; similarly profound changes may already be underway in the information age. The future of the information age will be dominated by unintended consequences. The Protestant Reformation and the shift from an earth-centered to a sun-centered universe were unintended consequences in the printing press era.

We are already seeing unintended consequences in the information age that are dominating intended ones and there are good reasons to expect more in the future. Thus, the technologists are unlikely to be accurate and the inventors may neither have their intended effects nor be the most important determinants of information age progress. It will be decades before we see the full effects of the information age.

The important effects of the printing press era were not seen clearly for more than years. While things happen more quickly these days, it could be decades before the winners and losers of the information age are apparent. Even today, significant and permanent cultural change does not happen quickly. The above factors combine to argue for: a keeping the Internet unregulated, and b taking a much more experimental approach to information policy. Societies who regulated the printing press suffered and continue to suffer today in comparison with those who didn't.

With the future to be dominated by unintended consequences and a long time in emerging, a more experimental approach to policy change with special attention to unintended consequences is soundest. Parallel 1: Technological Breakthroughs in Communications It is here I want to return to the question of what the information age really is , for that is at the heart of my thinking. In fact, my basic argument can be stated as follows: As the first true many-to-many communications medium, [8] the networking of computers is the defining characteristic of the information age, There has been only one comparable event in the recorded history of communications—the printing press.

It was the first true one-to-many communications medium, and no change since has been as dramatic as networked computers, [9] The impact of the printing press on its era was profound in breadth and depth, and was directly related to its one-to-many communications capability, It is thus that I argue the many-to-many capability enabled by networked computers will play a role in similarly broad and deep changes in the information age.

The Future of Networked Computers While profound cultural changes are generally slow in developing, the same cannot often be said of technological changes that propel them. The Impact of the Printing Press While the history of the printing press has been studied voluminously, its effects on society have received little attention.

Krummel echoed the sentiments of many in writing: " She took seriously Bacon's aphorism, "We should note the force, effect, and consequences of inventions which are nowhere more conspicuous than in those three which were unknown to the ancients, namely, printing, gunpowder, and the compass. For these three have changed the appearance and state of the world. As she says, "What were some of the most important consequences of the shift from script to print?

Anticipating a strenuous effort to master a large literature, I began to investigate what had been written on this obviously important subject. To my surprise, I did not find even a small literature available for consultation. No one had yet attempted to survey the consequences of the fifteenth-century communications shift. Putting scribal products into print resulted in a cultural explosion.

Never had scholars found so many words, images, and diagrams at their fingertips.


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And never before had things been so confusing with, for instance, Dante's world view achieving prominent visibility at the same time that Copernican views were making their way into print. Nonsense and truth seemed to move hand in hand with neither made uncomfortable by the presence of the other.


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Though many have discussed Renaissance culture's playful spirit, love of many-sided accomplishment, or lighthearted indifference to historical fact, Eisenstein more prosaically says that things simply had not yet been sorted out. Eisenstein's arguments about the impact of the printing press on the Reformation are aptly summarized by Kingdon: "Scholars have long recognized the essential role of the press in spreading Protestant doctrine.

Luther himself, in fact, claimed that the invention of printing was a gift from God to reform His church. But Eisenstein argues that print did more than spread the Protestant Reformation: in an important sense, print caused the Reformation. Without access to the printed editions of biblical texts and church fathers, and the worrisome variants on crucial dogmatic issues they contain, Luther might never have been stimulated to develop his revolutionary new theology. And without accessibility to print, Luther might never have spread his ideas not only in the Latin of the scholarly community but also in the vernacular German of the lay community.

As Marvin points out, "throughout the Middle Ages periodic revivals of classical interests at different cultural centers were normally ended by war, famine, and other adversities that drew energy and attention back to more pressing problems of survival. As Mander puts it, "Scribal culture revered the ancients because they were closer to uncorrupted knowledge—that is, knowledge not yet corrupted through the process of scribal transmission Print culture, because it allows for cumulative advance of knowledge, views the past from a fixed distance.

This change in culture is captured neatly in: "the reversal of meaning undergone by the term "original. In the first truly typographical culture it increasingly meant "novel," a break with precedent. Parallel 2: Enabling Changes in How We Manipulate Knowledge At this point, I am supposing that: networked computers are here to stay; they represent a change in communications many-to-many unlike any we have seen since the printing press one-to-many ; the printing press had profound implications for society; and parallels between the changes brought about by these two advances in communications media will help us better appreciate the potential for societal change from networked computers.

Here, then, are the ground rules for each of the parallels in this section: In order to make the case that the chosen aspect from the print culture is related to significant societal change, it must a represent a change from the scribal culture related to the one-to-many character of the printing press, and b be relatable to a some change in society.

The parallel from the network culture must represent a change from the print culture that is enabled by the many-to-many character of networked computers. This will not be a prediction of what is to come, nor will I speculate at length on the potential effects of the enabled capability.

It will be sufficient to draw the parallel in enabled capabilities. Contradictions between separate parallels are allowed. There were definitely contradictions in the era of the printing press. For example, " Preserving, Updating and Disseminating Knowledge: From Manuscripts to Books to Internet books The printing press didn't create the book, it changed or redefined it. It was possible for publishers to solicit corrections and contributions from readers who, from their own experience, would send back a report—and this was common practice.

The same cumulative cognitive advance which excited cosmological speculation also led to new concepts of knowledge. The closed sphere or single corpus passed down from generation to generation, was replaced by an open-ended investigatory process pressing against ever advancing frontiers. For example, Paul Ginsparg, in remarks about the "E-print" journal "High Energy Physics - Theory" said: "The communication of research results occurs on a dramatically accelerated timescale In addition, researchers who might not ordinarily communicate with one another can quickly set up a virtual meeting ground, and ultimately disband if things do not pan out, all with infinitely greater ease and flexibility than is provided by current publication media.

Retrieving Knowledge: From Mnemonics to Indexes to Full-text Search In the scribal era, the ability to retrieve information was largely dependent on an individual's recall capabilities. Manuscripts with a detailed index bravely begun for A and B but faltering later in the alphabet are familiar to medievalists How the title page contributed to the cataloguing of books and the bibliographer's craft scarcely needs to be spelled out.

How it contributed to new habits of placing and dating, in general, does, I think, call for further thought. The wish to see one's work in print fixed forever with one's name in card files and anthologies is different from the desire to pen lines that could never be fixed in permanent form, might be lost forever, altered by copying, or—if truly memorable—be carried by oral transmission and assigned ultimately to 'anon'. As John Perry Barlow says in a seminal work on intellectual property and networked computers: "Software piracy laws are so practically unenforceable and breaking them has become so socially acceptable that only a thin minority appears compelled Whenever there is such profound divergence between the law and social practice, it is not society that adapts.

Digital technology is detaching information from the physical plane, where property law of all sorts has always found definition. Throughout the history of copyrights and patents, the proprietary assertions of thinkers have been focused not on their ideas but on the expression of those ideas Copyright worked well because, Gutenberg notwithstanding, it was hard to make a book.

Furthermore, books froze their contents into a condition which was as challenging to alter as it was to reproduce. Counterfeiting or distributing counterfeit volumes were obvious and visible activities, easy enough to catch somebody in the act of doing. He then ends with three maxims that he believes will hold true for whatever replaces copyrights on networks: "In the absence of the old containers [books], almost everything we think we know about intellectual property is wrong.

We are going to have to unlearn it. We are going to have to look at information as though we'd never seen the stuff before. The protections which we will develop will rely far more on ethics and technology than on law. Encryption will be the technical basis for most intellectual property protection.

Acquiring Knowledge: From Listeners to Readers to Users One of the immediate and recognizable impacts of the printing press was on how one learned. As Eisenstein says, "Possibly no social revolution in European history is as fundamental as that which saw book learning previously assigned to old men and monks gradually become the focus of daily life during childhood, adolescence and early manhood As a consumer of printed materials geared to a sequence of learning stages, the growing child was subjected to a different developmental process than was the medieval apprentice, ploughboy, novice or page.

The ways in which restructured consciousnesses rearranged particular societies in particular circumstances are left maddeningly fuzzy in such theories, although this is just what we want to know in order to take printing seriously as a historical agent. Parallel 3: The Dominance of Unintended Consequences Every successful technology has unintended consequences. Both men set out to fulfill traditional programs: to emend the Bible and reform the Church; to emend the Almagest and help with calendar reform; but both used means that were untraditional and this propelled their work in an unconventional direction, so that they broke new paths in the very act of seeking to achieve old goals.

Afterthoughts So far I've concentrated on what networked computers enable on the "bright" side of the parallels with the printing press era. Colleague Jim Gillogly has catalogued some of the more egregious: new and interesting ways of breaking into computer systems are being circulated both openly and covertly, chain letters that are both illegal and bandwidth intensive are multiplying on the net at an alarming rate, "roboposters"—one of whom automatically responds to any message that contains the words Turkey or Armenia with messages about the Armenian genocide of Turks yes, it was the other way around —are a growing aggravation, posters are starting to "spam" sending messages to ALL newsgroups with irrelevant advertisements, interest group messages, etc.

An example from Gillogly will suffice: "Fifteen years ago at Carnegie-Mellon University we snickered at our sophistication when we put our Coke machine on the ARPANET—you could finger it to find out what drinks were out, and how recently it had been loaded so we could estimate how cold the last ones were. Since then many appliances have showed up on the net, including the Prancing Pony food dispenser at Stanford and more sophisticated drink machines that monitor the actual rather than estimated temperature of the Cokes.

Summary There are some provocative parallels between the communications changes enabled by networked computers and those enabled by the printing press in its early days. General Implications for Making Policy The parallels discussed here between the printing press era and the networked computer era suggest at least two important implications for policy making. The award funded four weeks of effort dedicated to a topic of my choosing. This is a piece of speculation, with as much flesh and bones on it as four weeks of research, thought, RAND's usual superb library assistance, and conversation with colleagues can provide.

While retaining blame for its contents, the author has appreciated comments on earlier drafts from Tony Hearn, Willis Ware, Bob Anderson, and Carl Builder. For reviews of several other recent books on the subject, see the Review of Books and Multimedia, The Economist , September , , p. Colleague Bill Lisowski added by e-mail communication that Citizen's Band radios could be classified as another "attempt" in the s, but with the same problems as the radio transmitter. Networked computers are not spectrum-limited in this way. If more were known about the impact of public speaking or the earliest writings, I might be forced to reconsider.

Also, it is the combination of the immediacy of the communication and the sheer numbers of the "many" in "one-to-many" that are of interest to me. The printing press was the first medium in a string followed by film, radio, TV, etc. Quotes of this exact nature can be found, but hard statistics are difficult to come by. Typical early printing editions ran in the copies range and took much less time to produce than a single hand-written manuscript.

As with many successful developments, the many-to-many communications revolution appears to have more than one father. It is much faster than most other means of communication despite the fact that the typical machine is a "first-generation IBM-PC clone of the type that most Americans long ago consigned to yard sales or donated to charity, and most modems work like molasses at speeds of 2, bauds[sic] or less.

These should be considered conservative estimates because an increasing number of users are "hiding" behind "firewalls" that make accurate counts even more difficult. The sources for the statistics are also reported. FLOPS may not be the best measure of speed in networked computers, but at worst they underestimate better measures.


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