The Information Age in
Alfred D. Chandler Jr.
I begin this introduction by explaining the book's title. As it was originally conceived, the title was The Third Industrial Revolution: The Role of Information in the Transformation of the United States from Colonial Times to the Present. As the project progressed and the editors and contributors discussed the chapters to be written, we realized that what we were considering was not an industrial revolution but an information revolution—a revolution that evolved from the industrial world of the twentieth century. Moreover, this information revolution has transformed the industrial world of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as profoundly as the First and Second Industrial Revolutions transformed the earlier commercial world of the eighteenth century. Of these industrial revolutions, the first, beginning in Great Britain in the late eighteenth century, transformed the processes of production; the second, beginning in Europe and the United States in the I840s, transformed transportation and communication. For the purpose of this book a more realistic terminology appeared to be one of "ages" rather than "revolutions." We identify three—the Commercial Age, the Industrial Age, and the Information Age. Therefore, this history of the role of information in the transformation of the United States from colonial times to the present reviews that role from the centuries‐ old Commercial Age during the eighteenth century into the Industrial Age of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and then the transformation from the Industrial into the Information Age in the last decades of the twentieth century.
During the eighteenth century, the economy of Britain's colonies in America was largely agricultural and commercial and its population rural. Production, transportation, and communication were powered by wind, water, human and animal muscle, and the burning of wood.