Episode 104: A Brief History of Analogue to Digital Media

This particular section serves as the intro to Chapter 4. Right now I’m feeling a little iffy about it. more a gut feeling than anything I can specifically look at over the editing process. Perhaps a new set of eyes can help shed some light on the situation so if anyone is interested in throwing their own two cents to the mix I would very much appreciate it. The section in question appears just below today’s story.

During a recent trip, I was able to witness a very interesting example of maternity in action. If you have ever flown on a plane, you know the dread that comes with noticing that there is a baby in your nearby vicinity. Even if the toddler were at the opposite side of the plane from you, the shrieks it can emit are almost at Black Canary levels of intensity. During a recent flight, I sat across from a youngish mother with her teenage daughter whose primary reaction to all things is eye rolling and sighing, a fairly talkative five-year old, and a little boy who is probably over a year old but whose date is still counted in the months. The young one was passed around various laps during the four-hour aerial voyage and during that time he did a lot of crying and was really interested in the mechanics of how the window would open and close. Of course, the sun’s light would come in and score a natural 2o on my eyes every time.  My patience has been tested a lot before so I just took deep breaths and hoped the kid would fall asleep eventually. Other passengers however spoke up and voiced their concerns to the nearby flight attendant. At that time, the mother loudly declared in Spanish (which is my other native language beside English) what the Hell were those old bitches talking about her. Afterwards, she was also saying loudly the exact things to follow:  “what exactly did they want from me? He’s a baby you are lucky he’s behaving at all. What do you want me to do, you want me to kill my baby?!?!” Yes, that did indeed escalate quickly. Near the end of the flight I ended up talking to five-year old for a bit. Good thing I worked with kids for years. The mom was still pretty pissed through the end of the flight.

Crazy times indeed. Anyway here comes the chapter intro.

Introduction to Digital Media and Webcomics

What makes the digital process unique from the analogue model of traditional writing is not the visual output of letters but rather its method to produce them. The physical process of handwriting boils down to manipulating a pen or pencil to be able to make lines on a piece of paper that represent letters, thus allowing them to be read. The use of a typewriter requires a mechanical process of pressing on the corresponding key of the letter that one wishes to write, the pressure of this action activates a lever that pushes an imprint with ink onto the paper, which the machine then moves accordingly after each key stroke. Printing presses follow a similar principle but work at the scale of the page, making copies of one imprint in fairly rapid succession. Even Morse code still technically counts as an analogue process of exchanging spaces and lines for traditional letters but the “translating” is done at the human level. As the machines for communicating became more complex, the process of writing now required the machine to do more before the visual form of language could appear.

Digital media works at the level of input and output on a machine, which is what computers are first and foremost. The early days of computing revolved around being able to get the machine to recognize certain forms of input in order to perform a desired output. The most basic form of communication with the machine involved taking a point which would be empty or full, which led to what we know as binary. Punch cards from the very first computers were designed with binary as a way to provide multiple inputs at one time. As technology increased, more complex forms of input became available and programming languages now allowed for letters and words to be a relatively straightforward effect of proper inputs and outputs. Nowadays, computers have radically simplified their interfaces because programmers and developers want their machines to be “idiot proof”. Programs and websites run many of the complex coding in the background, beyond the people running them, i.e. the users’ line of sight.

This brief history of analogous and digital media glosses over many human and technological milestones developed over the years but it provides a clear purpose for this study. Digital media has become so prevalent that many users equate it with the transition of typewriters to computers and forget that one is not just the high-tech descendant of the other. The “qwerty” keyboard layout has been kept for all typing formats long after the need for commonly used letters to exist under different stamping points to avoid jams, as they did to solve the most common problem with typewriters. Digital media has reached a level of accessibility that one not need advanced training in computers to be able to do complex tasks that, even a few years ago, required proficiency in programming and code writing. To sum up, a lot of work online is done through systems that we are not aware of and that lack of understanding of anything deeper than what is currently on the screen is a disservice to digital media, especially authorship within this medium.

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