Information Age

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The Information Age (also known as the Computer Age, Digital Age, or New Media Age) is a historic period in the 21st century characterized by the rapid shift from traditional industry that the Industrial Revolution brought through industrialization, to an economy based on information technology.[ citation needed ] The onset of the Information Age can be associated with William Shockley, Walter Houser Brattain and John Bardeen, the inventors and engineers behind the first transistors, revolutionising modern technologies. [1]

History of the world Recorded history of humanity

The history of the world, in common parlance, is the history of humanity, as determined from archaeology, anthropology, genetics, linguistics, and other disciplines; and, for periods since the invention of writing, from recorded history and from secondary sources and studies.

The 21st (twenty-first) century is the current century of the Gregorian calendar. It began on January 1, 2001, and will end on December 31, 2100. It is the first century of the 3rd millennium. It is distinct from the century known as the 2000s which began on January 1, 2000 and will end on December 31, 2099.

Industrial Revolution mid 18th – early 19th century period; First Industrial Revolution evolved into the Second Industrial Revolution in the transition years between 1840 and 1870

The Industrial Revolution, now also known as the First Industrial Revolution, was the transition to new manufacturing processes in Europe and the United States, in the period from about 1760 to sometime between 1820 and 1840. This transition included going from hand production methods to machines, new chemical manufacturing and iron production processes, the increasing use of steam power and water power, the development of machine tools and the rise of the mechanized factory system. The Industrial Revolution also led to an unprecedented rise in the rate of population growth.


According to the UN Public Administration Network, the Information Age formed by capitalizing on computer microminiaturization advances. [2] This evolution of technology in daily life and social organization has led to the modernization of information and communication processes becoming the driving force of social evolution. [3] [ need quotation to verify ]

Miniaturization trend to manufacture ever smaller products and devices

Miniaturization is the trend to manufacture ever smaller mechanical, optical and electronic products and devices. Examples include miniaturization of mobile phones, computers and vehicle engine downsizing. In electronics, Moore's law, which was named after Intel co-founder Gordon Moore, predicted that the number of transistors on an integrated circuit for minimum component cost doubles every 18 months. This enables processors to be built in smaller sizes.


Rings of time showing some important dates in Information Age (Digital Revolution) from 1968 to 2017 Rings of time Information Age (Digital Revolution).jpg
Rings of time showing some important dates in Information Age (Digital Revolution) from 1968 to 2017

Library expansion

Library expansion was calculated in 1945 by Fremont Rider to double in capacity every 16 years if sufficient space were made available. [4] He advocated replacing bulky, decaying printed works with miniaturized microform analog photographs, which could be duplicated on-demand for library patrons or other institutions. He did not foresee the digital technology that would follow decades later to replace analog microform with digital imaging, storage, and transmission media. Automated, potentially lossless digital technologies allowed vast increases in the rapidity of information growth. Moore's law, which was formulated around 1965, calculated that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles approximately every two years. [5]

Fremont Rider American genealogist

Arthur Fremont Rider was an American writer, poet, editor, inventor, genealogist, and librarian. He studied under Melvil Dewey, of whom he wrote a biography for the ALA. Throughout his life he wrote in several genres including plays, poetry, short stories, non-fiction and an auto-biography which he wrote in the third-person. In the early 20th century he became a noted editor and publisher, working on such publications as Publishers Weekly and the Library Journal. In 1933 he became a librarian at Wesleyan University, eventually becoming director of the university’s Olin Memorial Library and afterwards founding the Godfrey Memorial Library of genealogy and history in 1947. For his contributions to library science and as a librarian at Wesleyan University he was named one of the 100 Most Important Leaders of Library Science and the Library Profession in the twentieth century by the official publication of the American Library Association.

Microform Forms with microreproductions of documents

Microforms are scaled-down reproductions of documents, typically either films or paper, made for the purposes of transmission, storage, reading, and printing. Microform images are commonly reduced to about one twenty-fifth of the original document size. For special purposes, greater optical reductions may be used.

Moores law heuristic law stating that the number of transistors on a circuit doubles every two years

Moore's law is the observation that the number of transistors in a dense integrated circuit doubles about every two years. The observation is named after Gordon Moore, the co-founder of Fairchild Semiconductor and CEO of Intel, whose 1965 paper described a doubling every year in the number of components per integrated circuit and projected this rate of growth would continue for at least another decade. In 1975, looking forward to the next decade, he revised the forecast to doubling every two years. The period is often quoted as 18 months because of a prediction by Intel executive David House.

The proliferation of the smaller and less expensive personal computers and improvements in computing power by the early 1980s resulted in sudden access to and the ability to share and store information for increasing numbers of workers. Connectivity between computers within companies led to the ability of workers at different levels to access greater amounts of information.

Information storage

The world's technological capacity to store information grew from 2.6 (optimally compressed) exabytes in 1986 to 15.8 in 1993, over 54.5 in 2000, and to 295 (optimally compressed) exabytes in 2007. This is the informational equivalent to less than one 730-MB CD-ROM per person in 1986 (539 MB per person), roughly 4 CD-ROM per person of 1993, 12 CD-ROM per person in the year 2000, and almost 61 CD-ROM per person in 2007. [6] It is estimated that the world's capacity to store information has reached 5 zettabytes in 2014. [7] This is the informational equivalent of 4,500 stacks of printed books from the earth to the sun.

CD-ROM pre-pressed compact disc

A CD-ROM is a pre-pressed optical compact disc that contains data. Computers can read—but not write to or erase—CD-ROMs, i.e. it is a type of read-only memory.

Earth Third planet from the Sun in the Solar System

Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the only astronomical object known to harbor life. According to radiometric dating and other sources of evidence, Earth formed over 4.5 billion years ago. Earth's gravity interacts with other objects in space, especially the Sun and the Moon, Earth's only natural satellite. Earth orbits around the Sun in 365.26 days, a period known as an Earth year. During this time, Earth rotates about its axis about 366.26 times.

Sun Star at the centre of the Solar System

The Sun is the star at the center of the Solar System. It is a nearly perfect sphere of hot plasma, with internal convective motion that generates a magnetic field via a dynamo process. It is by far the most important source of energy for life on Earth. Its diameter is about 1.39 million kilometers, or 109 times that of Earth, and its mass is about 330,000 times that of Earth. It accounts for about 99.86% of the total mass of the Solar System. Roughly three quarters of the Sun's mass consists of hydrogen (~73%); the rest is mostly helium (~25%), with much smaller quantities of heavier elements, including oxygen, carbon, neon, and iron.

Exponential growth of data storage

The amount of digital data stored appears to be growing approximately exponentially, reminiscent of Moore's law. The amount of storage space available appears to be growing approximately exponentially (Kryder's Law). [8] [9] [10] [11] [12]

Information transmission

The world's technological capacity to receive information through one-way broadcast networks was 432 exabytes of (optimally compressed) information in 1986, 715 (optimally compressed) exabytes in 1993, 1.2 (optimally compressed) zettabytes in 2000, and 1.9 zettabytes in 2007 (this is the information equivalent of 174 newspapers per person per day). [6] The world's effective capacity to exchange information through two-way telecommunication networks was 281 petabytes of (optimally compressed) information in 1986, 471 petabytes in 1993, 2.2 (optimally compressed) exabytes in 2000, and 65 (optimally compressed) exabytes in 2007 (this is the information equivalent of 6 newspapers per person per day). [6] In the 1990s, the spread of the Internet caused a sudden leap in access to and ability to share information in businesses and homes globally. Technology was developing so quickly that a computer costing $3000 in 1997 would cost $2000 two years later and $1000 the following year.


The world's technological capacity to compute information with humanly guided general-purpose computers grew from 3.0 × 108 MIPS in 1986, to 4.4 × 109 MIPS in 1993, 2.9 × 1011 MIPS in 2000 to 6.4 × 1012 MIPS in 2007. [6] An article in the recognized Journal Trends in Ecology and Evolution reports that by now digital technology "has vastly exceeded the cognitive capacity of any single human being and has done so a decade earlier than predicted. In terms of capacity, there are two measures of importance: the number of operations a system can perform and the amount of information that can be stored. The number of synaptic operations per second in a human brain has been estimated to lie between 10^15 and 10^17. While this number is impressive, even in 2007 humanity's general-purpose computers were capable of performing well over 10^18 instructions per second. Estimates suggest that the storage capacity of an individual human brain is about 10^12 bytes. On a per capita basis, this is matched by current digital storage (5x10^21 bytes per 7.2x10^9 people)". [7]

Relation to economics

Eventually, Information and Communication Technology—computers, computerized machinery, fiber optics, communication satellites, internet, and other ICT tools—became a significant part of the economy. Microcomputers were developed and many businesses and industries were greatly changed by ICT.[ citation needed ]

Nicholas Negroponte captured the essence of these changes in his 1995 book, Being Digital. [13] His book discusses similarities and differences between products made of atoms and products made of bits. In essence, a copy of a product made of bits can be made cheaply and quickly, and shipped across the country or internationally quickly and at very low cost.

Impact on jobs and income distribution

The Information Age has affected the workforce in several ways. It has created a situation in which workers who perform easily automated tasks are forced to find work that is not easily automated. [14] Workers are also being forced to compete in a global job market. Lastly, workers are being replaced by computers that can do their jobs faster and more effectively. This poses problems for workers in industrial societies, which are still to be solved. However, solutions that involve lowering the working time are usually highly resisted.[ citation needed ]

Jobs traditionally associated with the middle class (assembly line workers, data processors, foremen and supervisors) are beginning to disappear, either through outsourcing or automation. Individuals who lose their jobs must either move up, joining a group of "mind workers" (engineers, doctors, attorneys, teachers, scientists, professors, executives, journalists, consultants), or settle for low-skill, low-wage service jobs.

The "mind workers" are able to compete successfully in the world market and receive (relatively) high wages. Conversely, production workers and service workers in industrialized nations are unable to compete with workers in developing countries and either lose their jobs through outsourcing or are forced to accept wage cuts. [15] In addition, the internet makes it possible for workers in developing countries to provide in-person services and compete directly with their counterparts in other nations.

This has had several major consequences, including increased opportunity in developing countries and the globalization of the workforce.

Workers in developing countries have a competitive advantage that translates into increased opportunities and higher wages. [16] The full impact on the workforce in developing countries is complex and has downsides. (see discussion in section on [[Globalization).

In the past, the economic fate of workers was tied to the fate of national economies. For example, workers in the United States were once well paid in comparison to the workers in other countries. With the advent of the Information Age and improvements in communication, this is no longer the case. Because workers are forced to compete in a global job market, wages are less dependent on the success or failure of individual economies. [15]

Automation, productivity and job gain

The Information Age has affected the workforce in that automation and computerisation have resulted in higher productivity coupled with net job loss in manufacture. In the United States for example, from January 1972 to August 2010, the number of people employed in manufacturing jobs fell from 17,500,000 to 11,500,000 while manufacturing value rose 270%. [17]

Although it initially appeared that job loss in the industrial sector might be partially offset by the rapid growth of jobs in the IT sector, the recession of March 2001 foreshadowed a sharp drop in the number of jobs in the IT sector. This pattern of decrease in jobs continued until 2003. [18]

Data has shown that overall, technology creates more jobs than it destroys even in the short run. [19]

Rise of information-intensive industry

Industry is becoming more information-intensive and less labor and capital-intensive (see Information industry). This trend has important implications for the workforce; workers are becoming increasingly productive as the value of their labor decreases. However, there are also important implications for capitalism itself; not only is the value of labor decreased, the value of capital is also diminished. In the classical model, investments in human capital and financial capital are important predictors of the performance of a new venture. [20] However, as demonstrated by Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook, it now seems possible for a group of relatively inexperienced people with limited capital to succeed on a large scale. [21]


The Information Age was enabled by technology developed in the Digital Revolution, which was itself enabled by building on the developments in the Technological Revolution.


Before the advent of electronics, mechanical computers, like the Analytical Engine in 1837, were designed to provide routine mathematical calculation and simple decision-making capabilities. Military needs during World War II drove development of the first electronic computers, based on vacuum tubes, including the Z3, the Atanasoff–Berry Computer, Colossus computer, and ENIAC.

The invention of the transistor in 1947 enabled the era of mainframe computers (1950s – 1970s), typified by the IBM 360. These large, room-sized computers provided data calculation and manipulation that was much faster than humanly possible, but were expensive to buy and maintain, so were initially limited to a few scientific institutions, large corporations, and government agencies. As transistor technology rapidly improved, the ratio of computing power to size increased dramatically, giving direct access to computers to ever smaller groups of people.

Along with electronic arcade machines and home video game consoles in the 1970s, the development of personal computers like the Commodore PET and Apple II (both in 1977) gave individuals access to the computer. But data sharing between individual computers was either non-existent or largely manual, at first using punched cards and magnetic tape, and later floppy disks.


The first developments for storing data were initially based on photographs, starting with microphotography in 1851 and then microform in the 1920s, with the ability to store documents on film, making them much more compact. In the 1970s, electronic paper allowed digital information to appear as paper documents.

Early information theory and Hamming codes were developed about 1950, but awaited technical innovations in data transmission and storage to be put to full use. While cables transmitting digital data connected computer terminals and peripherals to mainframes were common, and special message-sharing systems leading to email were first developed in the 1960s, independent computer-to-computer networking began with ARPANET in 1969. This expanded to become the Internet (coined in 1974), and then the World Wide Web in 1989.

Public digital data transmission first utilized existing phone lines using dial-up, starting in the 1950s, and this was the mainstay of the Internet until broadband in the 2000s. The introduction of wireless networking in the 1990s combined with the proliferation of communications satellites in the 2000s allowed for public digital transmission without the need for cables. This technology led to digital television, GPS, and satellite radio through the 1990s and 2000s.

Computers continued to become smaller and more powerful, to the point where they could be carried. In the 1980s and 1990s, laptops were developed as a form of portable computers, and PDAs could be used while standing or walking. Pagers existing since the 1950s, were largely replaced by mobile phones beginning in the late 1990s, providing mobile networking features to some computers. Now commonplace, this technology is extended to digital cameras and other wearable devices. Starting in the late 1990s, tablets and then smartphones combined and extended these abilities of computing, mobility, and information sharing.


Optical communication has played an important role in communication networks. [22] Optical communication provided the hardware basis for internet technology, laying the foundations for the Digital Revolution and Information Age. [23]

While working at Tohoku University, Japanese engineer Jun-ichi Nishizawa proposed fiber-optic communication, the use of optical fibers for optical communication, in 1963. [24] Nishizawa invented other technologies that contributed to the development of optical fiber communications, such as the graded-index optical fiber as a channel for transmitting light from semiconductor lasers. [25] [26] He patented the graded-index optical fiber in 1964. [23] The solid-state optical fiber was invented by Nishizawa in 1964. [27]

The three essential elements of optical communication were invented by Jun-ichi Nishizawa: the semiconductor laser (1957) being the light source, the graded-index optical fiber (1964) as the transmission line, and the PIN photodiode (1950) as the optical receiver. [23] Izuo Hayashi's invention of the continuous wave semiconductor laser in 1970 led directly to the light sources in fiber-optic communication, laser printers, barcode readers, and optical disc drives, commercialized by Japanese entrepreneurs, [28] and opening up the field of optical communications. [22]

See also

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The exabyte is a multiple of the unit byte for digital information. In the International System of Units (SI), the prefix exa indicates multiplication by the sixth power of 1000 (1018). Therefore, one exabyte is one quintillion bytes (short scale). The unit symbol for the exabyte is EB.

The information explosion is the rapid increase in the amount of published information or data and the effects of this abundance. As the amount of available data grows, the problem of managing the information becomes more difficult, which can lead to information overload. The Online Oxford English Dictionary indicates use of the phrase in a March 1964 New Statesman article. The New York Times first used the phrase in its editorial content in an article by Walter Sullivan on June 7, 1964, in which he described the phrase as "much discussed". (p11.) The earliest use of the phrase seems to have been in an IBM advertising supplement to the New York Times published on April 30, 1961, and by Frank Fremont-Smith, Director of the American Institute of Biological Sciences Interdisciplinary Conference Program, in an April 1961 article in the AIBS Bulletin (p18.)

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An information society is a society where the creation, distribution, use, integration and manipulation of information is a significant economic, political, and cultural activity. Its main drivers are digital information and communication technologies, which have resulted in an information explosion and are profoundly changing all aspects of social organization, including the economy, education, health, warfare, government and democracy. The people who have the means to partake in this form of society are sometimes called digital citizens, defined by K. Mossberger as “Those who use the Internet regularly and effectively”. This is one of many dozen labels that have been identified to suggest that humans are entering a new phase of society.

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Information and communications technology (ICT) is an extensional term for information technology (IT) that stresses the role of unified communications and the integration of telecommunications and computers, as well as necessary enterprise software, middleware, storage, and audiovisual systems, that enable users to access, store, transmit, and manipulate information.

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Telecommunication Transmission of information between locations using electromagnetics

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Information technology (IT) is the use of computers to store, retrieve, transmit, and manipulate data, or information, often in the context of a business or other enterprise. IT is considered to be a subset of information and communications technology (ICT). An information technology system is generally an information system, a communications system or, more specifically speaking, a computer system – including all hardware, software and peripheral equipment – operated by a limited group of users.

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The Fraunhofer Institute for Telecommunications, Heinrich Hertz Institute, HHI, also known as Fraunhofer HHI or Fraunhofer Heinrich Hertz Institute, is an organization of the Fraunhofer Society based in Berlin. The institute engages in applied research and development in the fields of physics, electrical engineering and computer sciences.


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Further reading