The inventions that prevent information from vanishing

James Gleick provides a very interesting excerpt from his book The Information in the article How Information Became a Thing, and All Things Became Information. In the excerpt he discusses the inventions that allow us to record and preserve information (like the transistor and the “bit” as unit of measure), and how this fundamentally changed society:

The information produced and consumed by humankind used to vanish””that was the norm, the default. The sights, the sounds, the songs, the spoken word just melted away. Marks on stone, parchment, and paper were the special case. It did not occur to Sophocles’[1] audiences that it would be sad for his plays to be lost; they enjoyed the show[2].

Now expectations have inverted. Everything may be recorded and preserved, at least potentially: every musical performance; every crime in a shop, elevator, or city street; every volcano or tsunami on the remotest shore; every card played or piece moved in an online game; every rugby scrum and cricket match.

It looks like a great book. James, if you’re out there, when will the Kindle edition be available?


  1. The Wikipedia entry on Sophocles is fascinating.↩
  2. Speaking of enjoying the show↩