The technological developments of the 21st century have impacted everyday life in incredible ways. However, I do not believe that all of these developments are actually improvements. The history of writing proves that these origins are just as important as the advancements of the electronic era.
Amazing findings such as the Phaistos disc show how the earliest forms of writing must not be forgotten. The Italian archeologist Luigi Pernier discovered the Phaistos disc in 1908, but since then no one has been able to decipher the meanings of the symbols that are engraved onto the disc. This disc is possibly from the middle to late Minoan Bronze Age, and clearly holds information that someone thought was important enough to preserve for years to come. In the more recent decades, writing has transformed from engraved etchings into typed pages of work that are read all over the world.
Johannes Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press in the 15th century made printing multiple copies of a work easier and faster. Not only did the printing press make this process easier, but Gutenberg’s invention also increased the demand for printed materials. With the invention of the printing press came the emergence of new professions, such as the typesetter. Manual typesetting is still around as a hobby for those interested in the process of imposing moveable type onto different mediums. Carvings in stone led to Gutenberg’s letter pressing with the printing press, which eventually led to easier methods such as typewriting or today’s computer printing. Each step has led to the current practices of writing.
In the 21st century, most proofreading is done with a hard copy of the text to help show any errors that could have been produced by either mechanical issues with the computer or by the author. The debate of electronic versus hard copy proofreading has now begun. Even though there are potential benefits to transitioning the proofreading process to electronic form, I believe that it should still be done with a hard copy. I find it easier to find errors when I have the physical copy of the work in front of me rather than on a computer screen. However, this shift into electronic proofreading could cut costs, at least in terms of printing. The shift would also require proofreaders with new skills, such as talent with computers and noticing errors on-screen. Whether done electronically or with a hard copy, proofreading is necessary for the editing phase of publishing to begin.
Even in non-formal writing, I still hold tightly to handwriting. The great love letters of Napoleon to Josephine just would not be the same if they had been emails. I still greatly enjoy receiving a handwritten birthday card or get well note, just as much as I enjoy writing them. The ease and convenience of email is obviously beneficial for saving time and effort, but isn’t the point of a letter to put in the time and effort to write to someone? When it comes to formal writing, I do believe that a typed up letter is more professional, but it still usually requires a hand-written signature.
While all these new electronic advancements are extremely helpful in the 21st century, it is essential to remember the Phaistos disc and the origins of writing. I hardly doubt wordiness would be an issue if authors had to carve in each word onto stone. As writers, we still need to stop and think—would I spend an hour etching this blog into stone?