Today in History: Steam-powered printing press brings publications to the masses


While a printing press of sorts had been around for quite some time, it was still an arduous "by-hand" operation whose complexity still demanded large sums of money for the printed word. The steam-powered mechanical press not only increased output dramatically, it reduced costs as well and was able to bring newspapers to the forefront and information became available to the masses for the first time in history.

The Year was 1814

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When i say that printing presses had been around "a long time" I meant it. Some form of mass-production printing had existed for over 350 years at this point in time but it was always done manually with humans literally "pressing" the text onto some form of paper. Since the individual letters needed to be changed out for each page, this was a very complicated and time-consuming process.

However, Friedrich Koenig and Andreas Bauer came up with a wonderful machine that would change this forever, and they used it for the first time to print The Times of London newspaper on this day.

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Even with this advancement, their circulation was still a mere 5,000 daily papers, a number that would increase dramatically over the next decade or so. This invention allowed them to quickly outpace their competitors who could only produce around 250 pages an hour while the steam press could produce around 1,100.

Three years later a massive demand for these presses appeared and Koenig and Bauer established the first printing press factory in history. These rotary presses would remain the industry standard for a very long time and a far more advanced version of basically the same machine is still used in analog printing today.

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This is a particularly important day in history these days because we are the generation of people that are witnessing the gradual phasing out of the printed newspaper world. As the years go by more and more previously mass-produced newspaper companies convert to fully digital or simply go under.

It is very conceivable that print editions of newspapers will be phased out entirely in the next couple of decades. Think about it: Other than getting handed a free one on an international flight, when was the last time you read an actual newspaper? Newspaper sales have dropped nearly 70 % since the 50's, the greatest reduction happening in the past 10 years as everyone gets their information from the internet. Most small town local papers have no choice but to close their doors for good thus eliminating access to local news.

While the "big boys" in major metropolitan areas are unlikely to ever go under, the overal diminished revenue has seen a 30-40% drop in all journalism-related jobs in the past decade.

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personally, i hate reading news or a book on a screen, but such is life now

Of course this was always going to happen, why pay for something (even if it is cheap) when you can get it for free (kinda.) Despite the "doom and gloom" ending here, there is no denying the momentous achievement that this invention by Koenig and Bauer was. Over the next decade in 1841 "the news" went from being something that only the societal elite could afford to something that nearly everyone could obtain.

It all happened 205 years ago today.


Comments 9


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28.11.2019 06:21
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I will say that nothing good comes easy. Now that we have printing press that could make hundreds of thousand in an hours if I'm exaggerating. The era of advancement in technology has made things easier to the masses.

28.11.2019 06:29
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I've seen one of the modern printing presses when i was visiting NYC in the past as it was operating at full-speed. It would definitely rip your arm off if you reached in there. It was moving the papers faster than you can see them.

28.11.2019 06:59
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In the future,there would be no need for languages! Everything will be transmitted directly through the brain! Just waves if thoughts! Uploading the whole database on the cloud from where all the brains can access!!

Horror!

28.11.2019 06:52
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I think there is a Black Mirror episode that focuses on exactly that sort of dismal view on the future :)

28.11.2019 06:58
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Oh! That’s neat! Never heard of it! Got to look it up! I think we’ll all become borgs in the future!

28.11.2019 07:39
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It is very sad. My brother in law has been working for news paper companies for most of his adult life and now he has been forced to change gears and explore other avenues because the news paper jobs are just not there. I think he is currently substitute teaching. He used to manage the whole sports page for the local newspaper down there. I have been trying to get him writing on here or one of the other front ends, but he doesn't seem that interested. I think he might be working on a book.

02.12.2019 13:29
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awww man, that sucks. I know a few people that were studying journalism when we were in college and now they just have a job in a cubicle doing whatever because the journalism jobs were already on their way to non-existent by the time the graduated in the late 90's.

It does suck to see them go though, because i think most people will agree that an actual newspaper is much better than a tablet.

02.12.2019 17:36
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For sure!

02.12.2019 17:52
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