Into the Old World…

In the beginning God created the Heavens and the earth; then he created humans so that we may forever praise his glory. Then humans decided to ever follow the image of God and have their own sycophants. Thus, humans expressed their interest to simplify their lives through new creations, specifically through technology.

It is impossible to describe computers before defining the term new media. What is new media? New media is to put simply, the “shift of all culture to computer-mediated forms of production, distribution, and communication.” Most of the people, as well as the generation that will be born from now on will take all this for granted. But yes, there was a time when the advent of technology was nothing more than daguerreotype or the printing press (these items forever changed the world).

So, the focus transitions towards what happened that led to the new media, to a brave new future full of promises and technological advancement we only usher in whispers by watching Star Trek or Star Wars. Before new media and the convergence of almost everything to computer-mediated forms, there existed…The Old World and The Old Media.

Before media converged, it was actually two separate entities. Louis Daguerre developed daguerreotype, the first form of camera, on August 19, 1839. Thus began the media stage of development. In 1833, Charles Babbage commenced the design of a device called “the Analytical Engine,” capable of “doing any mathematical operation; not only would it follow the program fed into it by cards, but it would also decide which instructions to execute next, based on intermediate results.” The Analytical Engine was the first computer, using punch cards to enter data and instructions, a memory for storage, a processing unit to compute the data, and even a printer to print the results. Babbage borrowed the idea of punch cards from J.M. Jacquard, inventor of a loom “that was automatically controlled by punched paper cards.”

In January of 1893, Thomas Edison designed “Black Maria,” the first movie studio, which allowed photographs to be put into motion. Two years later Lumiere brothers “showed their new Cinematographie camera/projection hybrid.” Eventually, movies became longer and further development occurred, allowing for movie going experience as well as intricate movie development and editing. In the 1890s, Herman Hollerith designed an electric tabulating machine to assist in data collection. Hollerith’s Tabulating Machine Company merged with three other companies and in 1914, IBM was born.

Moving into the twentieth century, in 1936, Alan Turing wrote “On Computable Numbers,” which described and laid the foundations of the modern computer. He invented the “Universal Turing Machine,” capable of four operations and can perform “any calculation that could be done by a human and imitate any other computing machine.” The machine operated by reading and writing numbers on tape. During this century, inventors of cinema used strips of celluloid to store information while inventors of computer stored it “electronically in a binary code.” During the same year that Turing wrote his masterpiece, a German engineer, Konrad Zuse, began to build a computer. This is the first “working digital computer.” One interesting aspect is Zuse’s use of discarded 35 mm movie film, a tape, to control computer programs. In essence, a binary code punched over the original content of the movie film.

We can see that slowly but surely, over those years, media and computers developed in parallel courses only waiting to converge through a system of codes. The turning point was witnessed in the twentieth century as Turning’s and Zuse’s machines fused these separate entities (media and computer) into one identity. Thus, ends the separate paths of cinema and computer. As very conveniently put by Manovich, “media and computer – Daguerre’s daguerreotype and Babbage’s Analytical Engine, the Lumiere Cinematographie and Hollerith’s tabulator – merge into one.” Before new media, the old world provided the necessary development and evolution to accommodate the continuous change towards advancements in technology. The computer became the medium to new media: information is accessed through the computer. All media are translated into a numerical language easily computed by the computer. As media is converging, we must now question whether this is a blessing or a disaster waiting to happen.

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3 responses to “Into the Old World…

  1. The way in which the visual and computing elements of technology existed side by side for over a century is truly remarkable. Knowing what we know now, and living in the technological world we live in today, reading about this evolution of old media into new felt to me like dramatic irony. It’s strange to think how long the two were able to exist simultaneously without realizing how much they actually did work together. Each relied on the other technology in order to function on its own, but not until years later was there even a notion of combining the two. And today look how far that convergence has taken us.

    But this makes me wonder what we are capable of now, that we haven’t yet discovered…in other words, in the 19th and 20th centuries people unknowingly had all the parts to create this amazing new piece of technology, that is, the “media processor,” but it took them decades to realize their potential. So today, I wonder what it is that we know and use in our everyday lives that will one day become incredible piece of even newer media — some piece of technology that perhaps not even sci-fi enthusiasts have conjured up in their minds yet.

    I know we have all this convergence going on right now — with TV and the internet making their way onto cell phones, etc. — but after reading Manovich’s passage, I can’t help but think that our current capabilities are more than we even realize.

  2. Upon reading your post, I cannot help but to be struck by your final statements regarding whether or not media convergence is a “blessing or a disaster waiting to happen.” As the computer becomes the steadfast vehicle cruising along the medium from old to new media, the translation of information from “the olden'” formats (dare I say, words printed originally on paper) to the virtual realm of digitized, binary lingo – we are left questioning whether or not the meaning of the original information still remains.

    Our generation exists in these true times of convergence between old and new. We are experiencing, first-hand, the dissipation of old media (such as print materials like the newspaper) and viewing the growing emphasis on the Interweb and the digital realm. Everything is becoming translated in new media, from famous literary classics available in pageless formats on Kindle’s to the entire collection of the Beatle’s discography, newly digitally remastered and available in the iTunes store.

    Yet there is still something quite ominous and haunting about being a witness to strange convergence. This shift from media that what was once tangible and physical – capable of being experienced from all 5 senses – is now transgressing to the virtually, digital world. Kindle’s unfortunately cannot capture the nostalgic joy inherent in cracking open a copy of J.D. Salinger’s “Catcher In The Rye” from the 60s and smelling the reverent “old book” smell. Our children will subsequently be the generation of the newly converged old/new media world – for them, Holden Caulfield will seemingly be a purely digital experience, the act of reading no longer will involve the turning of paging … or dog-earing your favorite page of quotes; now, suspenseful books will no longer be “page-turners”, but merely “button pressers”…QUITE A WEIRD THOUGHT.

  3. I feel like nowadays the evolution of media is going towards putting everything in one place. I think this is primarily because of Apple, and in their designs. It’s not just about the iPhone–where you can read books, watch movies/TV, phone people, access the internet, and play stupid games on.

    It’s also about the sleek exterior and programming, that suggests a new organization method (for example, my MacBook has features where I can zoom in on a part of the screen, a “spaces” feature where I can put different windows in another “screen” entirely, not just all disorganized and on top of each other.

    And with the sleek design of the cases of the laptop, iPhone, and other Apple devices, there’s the emphasis on futuristic simplicity. I mean, Seinfeld makes a joke that in the future, we’re all going to be wearing the same space uniform (we’ve already got on metallics and leather…).

    Anyway, Apple products tend to market themselves as ultimate products–their products have all the features you’ll need all in one.

    I think the future of technology will bring about a whole new level of organization: everything in one. Something easier to lug around than a laptop, but more powerful and bigger than an iPhone. One day we’ll all have one electronic device that we’ll use, and that might mean that the worlds of media and the real world might not be so mixed in each other. We might be able to draw a significant line between the two, especially if we’re able to control our media intake.

    Of course people don’t have to buy such a device, and even after it’s made, we’ll have to wait for the other technologies to die out. But I think we can work our way up to that. For example, I no longer have a TV: all the shows I want to watch are online, and while I do watch shows like “Glee” when they premiere, I can skip the whole process if I want to–out of site, out of mind.

    Unfortunately that means I am on my laptop all the time anyway….

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