Category Archives: History of Visual Communications

Pirates of Silicon Valley

Pirates of Silicon Valley portrays a young Steve Jobs and young Bill Gates at the start of their careers. They are presented in entirely different manners; Jobs as ruthless, Gates laid-back. It is shown that Apple made it big with the Macintosh by stealing an idea from Xerox and Microsoft likewise got their start from Apple’s copied Xerox model. In a climatic moment, Gates questions Steve “You’re yelling? That’s not fair. I wanted to steal it first.” It is later showed the Steve is fired from his position due to employee complaints of his domineering personality.

I liked the movie. It was interesting and contained facts that were not previously well-known. It was interesting to me that while Apple and Microsoft are entirely different companies today with different niches, they got their big break from the same software developed by Xerox. The motif of stealing was well developed with pirate flags outside of the Apple headquarters (I would be interested to know if they’re really there.) I also liked the focus on Job’s and Gate’s dramatically different personalities. However, at times the movie seemed cheesy, especially parts involving Job’s and his ex-girlfriend.


Computer- 1930s

Mark Computer (1944):

UNIVAC (1951)

IBM701 EDPM (1953)

Scelbi Mark-8 (mid 70s)

Altair (mid 70s)


The first computers were as large as one room. The ENIAC (1946) measured 8.5 feet by 80 feet and weighed almost 30 tons!

ARPRANET was the first internet. It’s important because it allowed for the sharing of information between computers that were in separate geographical locations. Our modern day internet, The World Wide Web, was not launched until 1991.

The first apple computers were created by Steve Jobs and Stephen Wozniak. While jobs is still CEO of Apple, Wozniak left the company in 1987. However, he still works their as a part-time employee. Today, Apple ships out many of it’s products with “easter eggs,” or hidden surprises, ranging from weird graphics to music to games,  within Apple software. Some easter eggs that can be found in photoshop include a belching cat and weird secret messages.  In illustrator, some of the easter eggs include fun facts and a birthday cake brush.

Computers are very powerful machines. In the next 10 years, I believe most things will be digitalized including school textbooks, an idea some school boards are already toying with. I also believe even more information will be available to the masses allowing for oppressed people to realize their plight. Computers can change the world :)!


The Linotype Machine – 1886

Shole’s typewriter:

Mergenthaler’s Linotype Machine:

Linotype & Operator:

The typewriter is an important part of our history because without it, we would not have modern day computers. The invention of the typewriter was important because using it was faster than writing by hand which allowed for the newspaper industry to be revolutionized. While Americans may think of typewriters as things of the past, they are the most common method of typing in 3rd world countries.

Typesetting is making text material by using type.

The linograph was the most importance advance since moveable type because it allowed a small number of operators to set type for more pages on a daily basis, which allowed newspapers to become longer and thus more informative.

One of the major differences between the linograph keyboard and the modern day keyboard was the absence of the shift key. This meant that the linograph keyboard had to have separate black keys for lowercase letters and white keys for uppercase letters. The keyboard also had blue keys for punctuation, digits, small capital letters and fixed width spaces.  The keys were arranged in order of letter frequencies as opposed to the modern day QWERTY arrangement. In total, there were 90 keys on the linograph. Modern day keyboards range, but most have a little over 100 keys.


The Gutenberg Press- 1440

The Gutenberg press worked by a metal moveable type being pressed down onto paper using oil-based inks. This method allowed for uniform characters across the entire book.  This is an example of relief printing.

Moveable type is the system of printing that uses moveable components to reproduce the same elements of a document consistently.

Porus printing, also known as screen or ink printing, ink is brushed onto a screen which is on some object, usually paper but it can also be metals, glass, or a textile. Intaglio printing, also called gravue printing, works by etching images below the surface and filling the engraving with ink. Excess ink is then removed before transferring the remaining ink to it’s final medium. Lithography uses stones and metal plates that are kept wet with water. The ink is placed on the wet plates and then special paper is placed on top of the stone before being run through the press. After it is run through the press, the paper is taken off and the stone or metal is left with the image. Offset lithography uses digitally made metal plates that are inked. The ink is then transferred to a rubber cylinder and then finally to paper.

One major improvement on Guttenberg’s orginal printing press is the speed of impressions. By 1940, printing presses could do over 3500 impressions/ hour. Today’s printing presses follow the same basic principles, but are much more automated.

offset lithography press:

CYMK is a four-color process method of printing that is based on the subtraction principle that states if all colors are removed, only white remains. It works by combining cyan, yellow, magenta, and black to create the desired colors. These colors are layered onto one another, usually in that order.

Codex & Illuminated Manuscript- 300 AD through 1450 AD



illuminated manuscript:

The codex evolved from wooden tablets eventually replacing the scroll. The codex was random access, meaning that one was able to flip to any page. This is in contrast to scrolls which had sequential access. This meant that one would have to unroll all parts of the scroll that came before the part that one wanted to access. Random access was much more efficient.

The codex only contained words. Later, illuminated manuscripts were developed. These finely crafted books were adorned with illustrations and intricate detail. The monks who created these manuscripts were very skilled artisans who practiced craftsmanship, putting much work into an art form. This is important because by practicing their art, they were able to create beautiful manuscripts.

The format of the codex is still used today because of its random access principle which made it easy to look up information. It was also compact, durable, and portable. Modern objects that employ the codex format are encyclopedias, bibles, and

Secrets of the Rosetta Stone

Secrets of the Rosetta Stone focused on the history of the Rosetta Stone- from Napoleon Bonaparte first conquering Egypt through Jean-Francois Champollion deciphering the hieroglyphics.  It was a good movie, with the history being told in a story-like fashion. The basic information contained within the movie was that three languages were on the Rosetta Stone- Greek, Demonic, and Hieroglyphics. In Greek, it said that all three languages said the same thing. This led to a race across Europe to be the first to crack the new languages. It was Thomas Young, a Londoner who loved problem-solving, who deciphered the first hieroglyphic in 1818. However, it was Jean-Francois Champollion who combined Young’s idea with his knowledge of the coptic alphabet and Egyptian history to truly crack the Rosetta Stone.

The movie continually talked about the Rosetta Stone holding the secrets of the Egyptian. While it can be inferred that cracking the Rosetta Stone did lead to discovering more about the Egyptians, the movie never explained them. A brief explanation of some of the more significant or interesting facts would have made the movie even better. To some extent the reader was left hanging, especially when one takes into account the the movie’s title. How’s that for irony?

Phonetic Alphabet- 1050 BC

Phoenician Alphabet:

Greek Alphabet:

Roman Alphabet:


The Phoenician alphabet was successful because it was easy to learn and the trading culture at the time allowed it to be spread to Europe and North Africa.

The social structure of a society is the way people in each society interact with each other and act in their society. This is typically a very stable structure.

The Roman alphabet because the most widely used because it was easy to learn, but still had enough letters to convey all ideas. The Roman alphabet propelled typography forward. For practical purposes, Roman carvers began to use serifs. This development led to the creation of  a baseline. The Romans also made sure that their type was aligned in orderly rows. These aesthetics are still used today.

The original Phoenician alphabet had no vowels. It was not until the Greeks adapted the alphabet that vowels became popularized. The Roman alphabet is very similar to the Greek alphabet, however the Romans added additional letters. The Romans also emphasized the importance of neatness in their writing- as seen in the above example. The Romans also developed miniscule, or lower case, letters in the 3rd century.