This is from section 2.1., “The Four Ages” of Chapter 2, “Ranks, Revolutions, and Paidias,” of David Hays, The Evolution of Technology Through Four Cognitive Ranks (1993). I’d posted the introduction from Chapter 1 on Wednesday. This says a bit more about how we arrived at the concept and the terminology. I continue the convention of setting Hays' text in Courier (as a reminder of its origins in a mono-spaced electronic format).
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In Section 1.1.4, I told you how William L. Benzon, then a graduate student at SUNY Buffalo, generalized Walter Wiora's concept of four ages of music into a scheme for culture history. Informatics, I said, went through ages of
Rank 1. SpeechAnd perhaps I should tell you how we got that list. The 1st, 2nd, and 4th entries were given to me by Charles F., a linguist and generalist, before I met Benzon. He called computation the third information-processing revolution. Since I already felt that computation was a revolutionary art, I liked his placing it in this grand context. When we [that is, Hays and Benzon] began talking in detail about the four ranks, we saw clearly that Hockett had missed something (if the theory of informatic rank is to be taken seriously, it may not be permitted such a large gap). But what had Hockett missed?
Rank 2. Writing
Rank 3. Calculation
Rank 4. Computation
It occurred to me that he had missed the Renaissance, when life and art changed enormously and science began. Students in our seminar suggested the printing press. Well, it is certainly true that the availability of written material to many people made a fundamental change in all of life, but that is really a matter of diffusing the kind of thinking that goes with writing (rank 2) to a large part of the population. The printing press does not lead to a new kind of thinking. So we poked around. I got out James R. Newman's anthology _The World of Mathematics_ and found that arithmetic came to the western world at roughly the right time:
"by the end of the thirteenth century the Arabic arithmetic had been fairly introduced into Europe ..." (p. 18, from a selection called "The Nature of Mathe- matics" by Philip E. B. Jourdain)
Before that time, arithmetic might be done with counters on a board, with tricky methods by specialists, or by creative insight (no kidding). What Europe got from the Arabs, who had it from India, was a routine way of dealing with numerical problems – calculation. Science needs calculation as you need your bones. So we had a list with four entries, as required.
For a fresh example, and one from technology, take the task of moving a load on land:
Rank 1. Human carriersThe wheel has been found by archeologists in Mesopotamia at sites dated between 3500 and 3000 BC, during the long, slow development of writing, but carts frightened both people and horses in rural England around 1700. The steam locomotive developed early in the nineteenth century. Jet aircraft appeared late in World War II and were made safe for commercial use some years after the war ended; without computers, both the design and the regular operation of jets would be inordinately difficult.
Rank 2. Animals carrying packs or pulling carts
Rank 3. Steam railways
Rank 4. Jet aircraft