EPISODE 2 - Microelectronics

The Second Printing Revolution: Automating Replication and Processing

Printing was a revolutionary technology that industrially replicated recorded knowledge at a price individuals could afford to own. We are currently in the midst of a second "printing" revolution resulting from an automated industrial technology able to literally  print circuits and chips to mass-produce personal knowledge processors (personal computers) for an equivalent price of less than what a single book cost 500 years ago.

More revolutionary is the fact that the knowledge held in and accessed via the PC can be replicated "virtually" at essentially zero cost to whoever wants it, whenever they want it, and wherever they happen to be in the world. Industrially replicated microprocessors and related mass produced artifacts using printed circuits now give individual people access to what is approaching the sum total of human knowledge for close to free!

And still more revolutionary yet,  is the fact that the electronic circuitry of the computer is actually able to perform automated logical operations on its contents entirely within the domain of Popper's World 3 without requiring any subjective involvement from the human World 2 .

The next section describes how this technology came to be and just how truly revolutionary it really is. Episode 3 will describe cognitive impacts of the technological revolution from the viewpoint of individual cognitive revolutions; and Episode 4 will examine the even more profoundly revolutionary impacts on organizational level cognition that transcends the individual level.

Manually writing and administering business records on paper is expensive, slow and fallible. Starting in the 1890's large and wealthy information-based organizations began looking for ways to automate record keeping and administration.

Reducing costs and getting results faster were the major incentives in the last decade of the 19th Century for the US Census Bureau to adopt Herman Hollerith's revolutionary use of punch card technology. Hollerith's technology was adapted from Jacquard systems developed in the first decade of the 19th Century to record fabric patterns and control weaving looms68. With processing of the 1880 census still incomplete, Hollerith won the bid to provide improved technology for tabulating the 1890 Census (Russo ????; O’Connor and Robertson 1999). Census information was collected manually, and the information was later punched onto cards for further processing by Hollerith's punch card tabulating machines69. The data from the 1890 census took about three months70 to process with the punch card tabulators instead of the two years estimated for previous hand counting procedures.

Hollerith founded the Tabulating Machine Company widely commercialise his tabulating machines. Between 1902 and 1905, he automated card feeding, developed a way to read moving cards, and standardised card formats. After new management and mergers with computing scale and time recording companies, Hollerith's company became IBM in 192471.

Mechanical Data Processing and Calculating