Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Insert obligatory what's-a-newspaper? joke here

Another small piece (or, more accurately, medium-size piece of a big piece) of the late 19th/early 20th century technology spike.

Media innovation was a big part of this story, not in the same league as internal combustion and electricity, but still a big player marked with a number of stunning advances.Most of the attention here tends to go to the then completely new developments such as recorded sound and moving pictures, but in terms of impact, advances in printing may have had more of an effect on the period.

I have been going through some old Scientific Americans for material and came across this excellent example from 1896. In the middle of the century, putting out a major metropolitan daily required the equivalent of a medium-size, well staffed factory.

By the last decade of the century, the presses were five times as fast, a fraction of the size, and largely automated.

This and other technological innovations (such as color printing) made publications like the Strand magazine and journalistic events like the Hearst/Pulitzer circulation wars and the rise of the comic strips possible. All of this had an enormous impact on American culture and politics.

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