Saturday, December 1, 2007

Unsung Technology: Paper

We use paper everyday, and yet hardly ever think about it.

Before paper was invented, papyrus and parchment were used to write things down. Papyrus can only be grown in tropical regions, and isn't durable. Parchment is expensive and takes a long time to make. That's why paper replaced those, but not why it's significant, as papyrus and parchment still work fine for writing on; the Great Library of Alexandria used only papyrus.

The true significance of paper is only realized when machinery starts becoming commonplace. A printing press works better with paper than with papyrus or parchment, and we all know the significance of the printing press.

Also, with the industrial revolution, paper manufacturing could be made to speed up the production of paper. This made paper cheap. Not just cheaper than parchment, but "an ordinary person can buy books" cheap. This improved the literacy rate and allowed for more uses of paper. For example, toilet paper. This cheapness, also allowed for paper money to be used.

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