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.