Digital Gutenberg
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The arrival of devices that allow sound, photographic images, video images, and line art to be introduced directly into computers as digital information propelled the people computers into the forefront of almost all phases of publishing and art production. Interactive digital publishing is one of the most rapidly expanding areas in computer hardware and software design. It is really quite remarkable, but a single user can now have in-hand all the functions that once required many highly trained persons and a mountain of expensive equipment to accomplish.

As I indicated earlier, the ideal publishing machine needs lots of memory and speed. Computers are very democratic, on the whole; they treat all information the same. It is all just ones and zeros. It does not matter if you type the letter A to mean A, or if you make a mark in a drawing program to create a nose. The computer takes it in and pushes it out as either a one or a zero, or a collection of ones and zeroes. But, as imaging and publishing needs become more complex -- as, for instance, in the case of a drawing with many subtle tones or several hundred colors, or a document consisting of both words and pictures -- then it takes many more ones and zeroes to describe a given element, which means the computer is soon processing mammoth quantities of ones and zeroes that tend to bunch up, and in effect become caught in a kind of traffic jam, making the progress of work impossibly slow.

When you consider that the first personal computers had only 48 to 64 kilobytes of operating memory, called RAM -- and a byte being usually an arrangement of 8 digits made up of ones and zeroes -- anything more complex than a simple black-and-white sketch was out of the question. The new machines generally have at least a megabyte (one megabyte being 1024 kilobytes) of operating memory, more often 2 to 5 megabytes. And now, with the possibility of capturing full-color photographic and video images, and sound too, we find ourselves buying machines equipped with 20 megabytes or a gigabyte (1024 megabytes) of operating memory. More memory will be needed as the work becomes more sophisticated, of course. And we are going to need better and faster ways to access that memory. I am confident that the computers we will be using in the next decade will have a whole new look and feel -- tending, I think, away from linear modes toward more organic schemes.

Yes -- bits, bytes, kilobytes, megabytes, and gigabytes are part of our vocabulary now, like it or not. It is important for all of us -- even us sensitive types -- to learn what they mean. For in the knowing is the power to create in ways we had not thought possible, and also the power to put those creations into the hands of the many. In the knowing is power to be a publisher, not just of words on paper, but images and sounds and new arrangements of words, images and sounds in new orders of integrated electronic editions -- using things like the CD-ROM, or tape, or the fiberoptic highways that will soon span continents and oceans.

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