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  Printing (Middle English prient, ‘to impress or stamp’) is probably the most important invention of the Middle Ages. Printed texts were known to be printed in the Far East as far back as the 8th century. This method of printing was long and laborious, as it involved the printing of texts by woodcut blocks which were immovable and awkward to work with. It was the invention of movable type which constituted a major breakthrough and caused the opening of many networks of communication that revolutionized civilization. The first book using movable type was published in Korea, late in the 14th century; it was quickly followed by printing presses being set up in Europe by such people as Johaan Gutenberg and William Caxton.

Printing using movable type bearing letters, numbers and punctuation marks originated in Germany in the mid-15th century. Monotype and linotype machines producing metal castings of the required lines, or blocks carrying the required letters allowed the automated assembly of the text by an operation at a keyboard similar to that of a typewriter. These machines were developed between 1880 and 1890.

Typewriters were invented in the early 18th century but were not in practical use until the middle of the 19th. The development since the early 1980s of small ‘personal’ computers with associated dotmatrix, daisywheel, laser and bubblejet printers has allowed the modern office to have facilities for word processing and desk-top publishing. Associated with these are electronic scanners which can read and interpret into computer language text and diagrams for editing and incorporation with other text so that books and magazines can be transmitted from editor to printer in the form of computer disks and cassettes.

With the development of the modern digital computer has come the possibility of E-mail: transmission of text from one computer to another anywhere in the world provided a telephone or even a radio link is available. Few modern offices are now without a fax (facsimile transmission) machine to transmit by telephone line text and diagrams from a paper original for reproduction on paper wherever another fax machine is connected to the telephone system be it in Australia, America or Japan. This saves time, is immediately available and both sender and receiver have a paper copy of the message. AA

Further reading F. Denman, The Shaping of the Alphabet.



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