Taking it all for granted

In 2012, we truly live in an age in which almost anything we want to know is within seconds of our grasp, thanks to the Internet. Like advancements such as air conditioning, cable TV and satellite radio, we wonder how we ever lived without knowing the complete cast of “American Graffiti” or who won the NL batting title in 1976. Today’s college graduates enter the workforce having been immersed in the digital age since they were old enough to crawl, and many may never have owned a CD, much less a cassette tape or seen a VCR. But the technology gap between today’s baby boomer managers and their millennial subordinates is far less than that between today’s workforce and that in 1912 and 1812. Let’s compare what a typical journalist had to work with in each century:

Year

1812

1912

2012

Medium Paper Paper; telegraph Paper; digital; broadcast
Data entry Quill and ink; fountain pen patented in 1827 Early manual typewriter Computer
Data transfer Manual. Telegraph invented in 1837. Telegraph and early radio; first radio newscast not until 1920. Internet; cellular broadband; radio; TV; satellite
Imagery Line art; first permanent photograph made in 1826 Film cameras; video camera tubes invented in the 1920s. Digital, film, computer-generated graphics
Research Libraries; paper records; photographs; Encyclopedia Britannica published between 1768 and 1771 Libraries; encyclopedias; photographs; microfilm used commercially in 1925 Digitization of all records and digital information made available via the internet is nearly the norm.
Publication method Steam powered printing press Rotary printing press Digital presses; internet and digital formats
The Raleigh, NC News and Observer, circa 1934. Courtest of www.innovationsinnewspapers.com

Imagine yourself in a newsroom at an early American newspaper at the turn of the 19th century, scrawling notes with a quill pen and ink, relying on an artist’s depiction of an event to be carved into a block and your copy to be set letter by letter on noisy, steam-powered printing press, dried, folded and then sold on the street corner by a young boy. All things considered, it makes WordPress seem incredibly simple.

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