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Information Age is a name given to a period after the industrial age and before the Knowledge Economy. Information Age is a term applied to the period where movement of information became faster than physical movement, more narrowly applying to the 1980s onward. Under conventional economic theory, the Information Age also heralded the era where information was a scarce resource and its capture and distribution generated competitive advantage. Microsoft (MSFT) became one of the largest companies in the world based on its influence in creating the underlying mechanics the facilitate information distribution. It has been estimated that the Information Age lasted from approximately 1971 to 1991. One could argue, though, that it actually began during the latter half of the 19th Century with the invention of the telephone and Telegraphy. It is often used in conjunction with the term post-industrial society. When information ceased being scarce, the Knowledge Economy commenced. The Knowledge Economy started around 1991 and continued to approximately 2002. The current economic era is defined as the Intangible Economy. In the Intangible Economy, four factors of production - knowledge, collaboration, process-engagement, and time quality are the resources from which economic activity and competitive advantage are primarily derived. It is helpful to understand that Google (GOOG) is now a serious competitor to Microsoft as it relies on Intangible Economy principles to run its operations.

Early Information Age

Information processing

In 1837 Samuel Morse created a device which converted physical movement into electrical impulses that could travel over large distances. In 1844, telegraphy was used to transmit data along an experimental telegraph line from Washington, DC to Baltimore, Maryland. Slightly more than 20 years later, the first telegraph cables were stretched across the Atlantic Ocean, in 1858, but failed to stay in operation; however, uninterrupted service began in 1866.

This invention set off a stream of devices used for the processing of information, the typewriter, the mechanical calculator, and finally, the telephone in 1876. "Informationalization" of previous devices occurred, such as the player piano.

The ability to distribute large runs of printed material had created the means for information transmission to change economic and social behavior. Telephones and ticker tape machines would be part of the infrastructure for the growth of stock markets, as well as the ability to trade precious metals, such as gold. It was the telegraph that allowed the news of Krakatoa's explosive eruption to spread around the world rapidly.

Recording added a new means of distribution: namely that of sound. However, the distribution was either person to person, as in the telegraph, or through the distribution of a physical object. Since physical objects cannot be transported as quickly as electrical signals, the next stage of information technology was to be able to transmit pure information, as the telegraph did, but with mass reception.


The information technologies of the 19th century allowed faster and wider dissemination of information than previously possible. However, ultimately such information had to be reduced to the same form which had been the final form for centuries: paper, whose analogs go back to stone and clay tablets. With the development of what was called wireless transmission, when combined with the ability to transmit voice and sound from the telephone, and recording technology, a new medium began to be born, which placed a different final result in the hands of the individual. These technologies would eventually become radio.

Television followed, allowing video to be displayed with sound. While radio brought the world's events to our homes, it was television that brought the first pictures of the world to many people. TVs were first used as a way to get information and news from other places, but quickly became a very important entertainment device, as well as a useful tool for learning. Unlike radio, television brought with it a whole new industry of content delivery, mainly Cable television providers. Not only were stations producing and broadcasting their own shows, but the broadcasting industry allowed homes to receive more and more channels. With the later advances in technology, direct services such as cable and satelite television provided increasingly diverse amounts of content.

Information technology

With recording technologies, transmission, and with early computers, it didn't take very long for scientific advances to merge together into the new field of Information Technlogy. Information technology is the use of technology to enhance the speed and the efficiency of the transfer of information.

The information age continues to this day, and technological advances such as mobile phones, high speed connections, Voice Over IP have changed lifestyles around the world and spawned new industries around controlling and providing information.

The Personal Computer

At first, computers were big, costly, and available only to universities and big corporations. Before the 1990s, most discoveries in information technology were driven by full time researchers having access to the high priced equipment.

In the 1980s however, small computers started to become available. A personal computer or PC is generally a microcomputer intended to be used by one person at a time, and suitable for general purpose tasks such as word processing, programming, editing or personal computer game, usually used to run purchased or other software not written by the user. Unlike minicomputers, a personal computer is often owned by the person using it, indicating a low cost of purchase and simplicity of operation. The user of a modern personal computer may have significant knowledge of the operating environment and application programs, but is not necessarily interested in programming nor even able to write programs for the computer.

The term PC was popularized by Apple Computer and soon after many other companies began offering personal computers. International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) developed the first open standard Personal Computer (IBM PC launched in US markets 1981 first deliveries to European markets 1982 and 1983), which standardized the software development. For the first time in the world history we had PC's that used the similar operating systems that allowed the computers users to communicate by using the same platform.

Soon after, we saw the birth of what we know as current information technology: personal computers in our own homes, using communication devices known as modems, to access information on remote servers. The first incarnation of those were BBS servers, setup by education facilities or even individual people, to store both information and allow discussion with chat and messages.

The Internet

The Internet was originally conceived as a distributed, fail-proof network that could connect computers together and be resistant to any point of failure. It was created mainly by DARPA; its initial software applications were email and computer file transfer.

With the invention of the World Wide Web in 1989, the Internet really took off as a global network. Now, the Internet is the ultimate place to accelerate the flow of relevant information.

The Digital Revolution

The Digital Revolution is a recent term describing the effects of the rapid drop in cost and rapid expansion of power of digital devices such as computers and telecommunications (e.g mobile phones). It includes changes in technology and society, and is often specifically used to refer to the controversies that occur as these technologies are widely adopted.


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