Honouring the man who ‘saw the Internet coming’

Google’s latest doodle (on July 21) celebrates the 106th birthday of Marshall McLuhan, the visionary who predicted the rise of the web technology and its impact on the world in the 1960s, three decades before Tim Berneres-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989.

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A Canadian philosopher, intellectual and professor, McLuhan specialised in media theory and believed that society is shaped by technology and the way information is shared. The doodle is an illustration of how McLuhan viewed human history. It depicts the acoustic age (the time of the oral tradition), the literary age (that began with the invention of writing), the print age (that was ushered in with the development of the printing press) and the electronic age (the distribution of information through computers)

Such was his insight on the subject that his book The Gutenberg Galaxy (published in 1962), popularised the term ‘global village’ which describes how the world has been condensed into a small place by electric technology. Through the book, he prophesied the web technology we have today – a medium that did not even come into existence until a decade after his death in 1980.

Did you know he also made a cameo appearance in Woody Allen’s 1977 movie Annie Hall? Yes. An academic arguing with Annie outside a movie theatre is silenced by McLuhan’s sudden appearance, who then delivers the line, “You know nothing of my work.”

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Well, the world knows his genius now.

Google Doodle Marshall McLuhan World Wide Web