What is the Information Age?
The Information Age is the idea that access to and the control of information is the defining characteristic of this current era in human civilization.
The Information Age -- also called the Computer Age, the Digital Age and the New Media Age -- is coupled tightly with the advent of personal computers. But many computer historians trace its beginnings to the work of the American mathematician Claude E. Shannon, known as the "father of Information Theory."
Origin of the Information Age
In 1948, at age 32 and as a researcher at Nokia Bell Laboratories, Shannon published a landmark paper proposing that information can be quantitatively encoded as a series of ones and zeroes.
Shannon showed how all information media, from telephone signals to radio waves to television, could be transmitted without error using this single framework.
Milestones of the Information Age
By the 1970s, with the development of the Internet by the United States Department of Defense and the subsequent adoption of personal computers a decade later, the Information, or Digital, Revolution was underway.
More technological changes, such as the development of fiber optic cables and faster microprocessors, accelerated the transmission and processing of information. The World Wide Web, used initially by companies as an electronic billboard for their products and services, morphed into an interactive consumer exchange for goods and information. Electronic mail (email), which permitted near-instant exchange of information, was widely adopted as the primary platform for workplace and personal communications.
The digitization of information has had a profound impact on traditional media businesses, such as book publishing, the music industry, and -- more recently -- the major television and cable networks. As information is increasingly described in digital form, businesses across many industries sharpened their focus on how to capitalize on the Information Age.
Leaders of the Information Age
Companies whose businesses are built on digitized information have become valuable and powerful in a relatively short period of time.
In the article "The companies that define the Information Age are the ones that know consumers the best," author Larry Allen, senior vice president of business development at Real Media Group, points out that just as land owners held the wealth and wielded power in the Agrarian Age and manufacturers such as Henry Ford and Cyrus McCormick accumulated fortunes in the Industrial Age, the current Information Age has spawned its own breed of wealthy and influential brokers. Those include Microsoft's Bill Gates, Apple's Steve Jobs, and Meta's Mark Zuckerberg.