It's difficult to imagine a world before Gutenberg's printing press took over. With every book, every manuscript being laboriously copied by hand, every page. Just think about that. The cost of those books were enormous. Only the very wealthy or the church could afford such luxuries. Paperbacks for the average folks...no way.
Though based on earlier Chinese and Korean movable type presses, Gutenberg's movable type had the advantage of a much simpler language to work with. Only dozens of characters compared to the over 10,000 characters of the Chinese alphabet. The cultural impact was unimaginable at the time. The masses had access at last. People could learn to read, not just the super rich, but everyone. Within 50 years more than a half million books had entered circulation.
This was a key factor in the explosion that was the Renaissance as well as allowing less restricted movement of information, ideas, some even revolutionary. More people were aware of injustices, corruption, ideas, creativity, humanity, religion and politics than ever before. Regular folks could read about Greek philosophy or the pulp magazines of their day. They could talk about what they'd read, debate or argue about it. Sound familiar?
Now think back about 30 years. No one had even heard of the internet. Email? Instant message? Emoji? Yeah right. Who could have predicted that the internet would be the next great leap in communication that took over the world? I have friends on 3 continents that I keep in touch with. That would have been unheard of! We used to write letters that would take weeks to get across the pond, now we can message them instantly. We send images and words around the world in seconds.
The internet has leveled the playing field, just as Gutenberg's press did. Now nearly everyone with access to a computer or a public library can access this great thing we call the Internet. They can do research and learn about ways to make change, they can find better books to read for research or for the pure pleasure of it. They can talk to friends and family around the world or across town and not think twice. The internet has fundamentally changed the way we live. The same way Gutenberg's press did.
The next time you hop online, check out facebook or twitter, reddit or buzzfeed, think about the centuries in between the first information revolution and the current one. Never forget that it all started with print. There's a reason we love it so much.