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Do You Remember When Printing Was Still a New Technology?

By Greenfield Belser
November 20, 2014
Do You Remember When Printing Was Still a New Technology?

I’m sure most of us remember having our first computer—gathering around to watch it dial-up to the internet at a glacial pace, to which we waited patiently, in awe instead of with impatient frustration. We even remember when we got our first, brick-like cellular devices (I was the super-cool kid with the walkie-talkie model. Thanks Mom and Dad!). I specifically remember my father vehemently expressing his dislike of cell phones and saying that he would never use one; to the point where, when asked if he could go back in time and change one thing, he said he would choose to destroy the creation of cell phones. WHAT?! The blasphemy!

We’re living in an incredible age of technological revolution and the interesting thing is that we, as humans, hate change.

This weekend, The Walters Art Museum is opening an exhibition exploring the transition between hand-lettered text and works created with moveable type. As with all new inventions, there is an inevitable period of time from the date of creation to the time of mass-adoption that involves messy overlaps of technologies, acceptance and process. From Pen to Press: Experimentation and Innovation in the Age of Print is showcasing the transitional period from when printing was still new, which resulted in the “interplay of formats that led to hybrid works, failed experiments and entirely new forms of books.”

That period has not really been explored in such a way before. I mean, who has stopped to wonder about the time when printing was as new and strange as the initial computers, cell phones, tablets and all of the other technologies that we have come to not only want, but we feel we need? As humans in the 21st century, we truly take the printed world for granted. However, being in an industry whose foundation is based in moveable type and whose present and future rely on the modern age of digital publishing, the exploration of the rise of printing is incredibly relevant. Don Norman, the director of The Design Lab at University of California, San Diego, put it like this, “The inventors will invent, for that is what inventors do. The technology will come first, the products second, and then the needs will slowly appear, as new applications become luxuries, then “needs,” and finally, essential.”

So, go learn and discover what it took for printing to become “essential.” Because as much as people will resist change, eventually it becomes necessary to adapt. My dad is NEVER without his cell phone now. I mean, who is? See more information below about the exhibit.

The Walters Art Museum
From Pen to Press: Experimentation and Innovation in the Age of Print
Saturday, November 22, 2014–Sunday, April 12, 2015
10:00 AM–05:00 PM on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday