NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article
Second Renaissance
by Cliff Milford, Editor, UCS, January 2002
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Renaissance Problems
In case you haven't noticed, we are in the midst of a second Renaissance! The first Renaissance occurred in the 15th century spurred by the invention of movable type and the printing press by Johannes Gutenberg. His first published book was, of course, the Gutenberg Bible. Detailed records of Gutenberg's life and work are scant; his name does not appear on any of the works attributed to him. It appears as though he was born around the year 1400, in Mainz, and trained as a goldsmith.

However, his invention of the printing press using movable type made books more easily available to everyone. No longer were they tucked away in monasteries for only priests to read and copy.

Although there are several theories as to the inception of the Renaissance, I believe the single most important invention was Gutenberg's printing press. Knowledge could now spread quickly and easily as compared to the previous centuries.

I presume it took about 100 years for books to spread about Europe, but when they did, new ideas, inventions, thinking, etc. emerged at a record pace. Everything was effected, including music and painting.

Lets look at the present
Not since the 15 century have we seen a sudden increase in knowledge as we are now experiencing. The invention that has made this phenomenal accelerated leap possible is, of course, the Internet. It is utterly amazing that you can now get information so quickly and easily! I remember my first introduction to the Internet.

I was observing a then new operating system, NeXT, which was supposed to be the ultimate in computer offerings. I could not believe that the operator could go from Europe to Japan by merely typing and entering an address. Not only that, he could download information from these sites and it only took a few minutes!

I remember my college days when I struggled in several libraries to gather information for term papers. Many times I had to ask the librarians for help. Sometimes they could assist me, but other times they were just as lost as I was.

Enter the Internet - I can now sit at my computer, download information, print it off or import it into a word processor and revise it into my own terminology in just a few minutes. What took hours, perhaps days, could now be accomplished in the proverbial "wink of an eye."

With new advances, however, there are problems. Certain material should not be available to selected audiences. Actually, in my opinion, some material should not be available to anyone! We don't need web sites advocating the annihilation or debauchery of humanity, but how do we expunge them? How do we prevent children from accessing them? How do we prevent mentally disturbed individuals from accessing sites which intensely augment their perverted penchants? There must be a line drawn between society's guarantee of individual rights and the right for the society itself to exist. In my opinion, when societal rights are threatened, the individual rights must become subordinate. The problem is, however, who is to be the judge for this donnybrook?

In the middle ages, the church purged objectionable material and was quite successful for a time, but the widespread availability of materials ended their control. I am not advocating such control in our time, but some materials should not be easily available. I had many an argument about censorship with fellow librarians when I was a librarian. They believed that all materials should be available. I always asked them the question, "If a book entitled, 'How to Make an Atom Bomb in 10 Easy Lessons' existed, written in language easily understood by elementary school children, should it be available in elementary school libraries?" Needless to say, they stuttered and stammered over that question. It proved my point, however, that some things should not be readily available.

The mammoth growth of the Internet is presenting problems which are beginning to effect all of us. I don't like nor want any pornographic e- mail sent to me, but how do I prevent it? The post office has ways of stopping such trash. Why not the Internet? We need some way to control what comes into our homes. What is your position on this controversial subject?

Finally, to quote an old but true saying, "Anything in the world can be used for good or evil." The avoidance of evil, however, is to be encouraged. Finč

Cliff Milford is editor of "Blue Chips" the official newsletter of the Utah Computer Society. Please send him an email if you use this article. There is no restriction against any non_profit group using the article as long as it is kept in context, with proper credit given to the author. This article is brought to you by the Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an International organization to which this user group belongs.

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