The Machine That Made Us

The Machine That Made Us

Ratings: 7.61/10 from 66 users.

The Machine That Made UsThe Machine That Made Us is a documentary in which Stephen Fry examines the story behind the first media entrepreneur, printing press inventor Johann Gutenberg, to find out why he did it and how, a story which involves both historical inquiry and hands-on craft and technology.

Fry travels across Europe to find out how Gutenberg kept his development work secret, about the role of avaricious investors and unscrupulous competitors and why Gutenberg's approach started a cultural revolution. He then sets about building a copy of Gutenberg's press.

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5 years ago

In 1454, Gutenberg developed the most sophisticated printing press of the Middle Ages. However, movable brass type was in use in Islamic Spain 100 years prior, and that is where the West's first printing devices were made. Just saying.

Graham Judd
8 years ago

Like Rob I'm also a letterpress machinist. And I also think the invention of casting type from metal was the great step forward, with the press to take advantage of it. The Chinese were certainly printing earlier but before the casting of type where were printed books? Few and far between. This film reminds us of the fact that in just 50 years, millions of books were printed, because of Gutenberg. This is a subject very close to a printers heart and it is great to see Mr Gutenberg get recognition in this day and age for his truely pioneering work.

10 years ago

A great movie!

12 years ago

As for the movable type argument. Modifying a tool is not the same as inventing it. That's like saying Steve Jobs invented the, he just changed it (frankly, not even the first smart phone). Jobs didn't invent the phone, smart or not, and Gutenberg didn't invent the printing press, movable type or not. Or how about Toyota invented the automobile instead of Ford? They innovated the automobile so much, might as well give them credit right?

The reason the Chinese didn't invent movable type? They don't use the alphabet! They use characters that don't break up the way individual letters do, so they invented a press that fit their needs. That isn't to say it's inferior to the movable type printing press though. And it certainly wasn't "unfinished."

12 years ago

To have invented something, you would have had to have made it first. Whether the Chinese printing press made it to Europe or not, the Chinese printing press was still invented FIRST. It's the same eurocentric view that says Columbus discovered the exactly do you discover something that had already been discovered? Not only did the American Indians discover it thousands of years before, there were also the vikings and now scholars are saying that evidence shows the Chinese might have travelled to the Americas decades before Columbus too.

If you want to argue that Gutenberg INDEPENDENTLY invented the printing press, then say so. But stop saying he invented it period and give the Chinese as much credit (even though they deserve MORE credit).

12 years ago

the chizzle part is hilarious!

13 years ago

I'm a letterpress printer and you all miss the point - Gutenberg invented movable type - the press had been around for eons - he was the son of a goldsmith and those skills helped him create the punch/casting box/lead type = he adapted the press from what was already there. Leo fender was an electrician who couldnt play the guitar and look what he came up with - lateral thinkers.

13 years ago

He mentions about the Chinese printing press and paper but it hadn't made it to Europe and if it had. His was a journey that decidedly changed EUROPE. A little light, yes, but enjoyable.

13 years ago

Always a joy to watch a Stephen Fry production, However my research dictates that the Chinese had developed printing technology well ahead of Gutenberg.

Caroline Harris
13 years ago

I thought this doco was a bit light to be honest.

13 years ago

Excellent presentation for an excellent topic. Fascinating! It is true what Stephen Fry says. I agree that I can imagine our world without cars or computers, but cannot imagine it without the printed word.