Adventures in Digital History

Initial Thoughts on the Information Age

From what I have seen of the Information Age thus far, I get the impression that it is a rich topic that stems across many academic disciplines as well as our general imagination in terms of content. Based on the initial readings it appears that many authors on the subject feel that the “Information Age” began as early as prehistoric times or as late as the invention of the transistor. I chose to read the introductions titled The Information by James Gleick and The Cybernetics Moment by Ronal R. Kline. Both were fascinating reads. Kline discusses how the unification of some of the greatest minds across several disciplines founded the Cybernetics Movement, which would in turn help shape the information age.1 Gleick focuses on the different means and inventions that helped to shape the Information Age.2 One of the most interesting things to note is a common overlap: Claude Shannon. I had no idea who Shannon was before reading about him and doing a little more digging online. Shannon basically issued a challenge to inventors and engineers, in the form of Information Theory, which is the scientific study of the quantification, storage, and communication of information. This eventually lead to the invention of the transistor, which as Gleick puts it, “sparked the revolution in electronics, setting the technology on its path of miniaturization and ubiquity.”3 Basically, Shannon helped to contribute to the rapid invention of new technological forms of communication. However, the most important thing to consider is that it was Shannon’s work that made it possible for us to use the internet to send and share a variety of file types, including JPEG, PNG, GIF, MP3, and many more. Claude Shannon is pretty much considered to be the Father of the Information Age. To have such a title and such an important role in recent history, especially in something that most of us use everyday, it is a little disappointing that this is the first time I’ve ever heard of him. However, that is what this class is for: to study the history of the Information Age.

This video, while a tad long, is very informative about Claude Shannon’s contributions to history.4

  1. Ronald R Kline, The Cybernetics Moment, or Why We Call Our Age the Information Age (Baltimore John Hopkins University Press, 2017), 1–8.[]
  2. James Gleick, The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood (London: Fourth Estate, 2011), 1–12.[]
  3. Gleick, The Information, 3-4.[]
  4. University of California Television (UCTV), “Claude Shannon – Father of the Information Age,” YouTube, January 17, 2008,[]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *