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James Gleick presents a chronicle and meditation that aims to show how information has become the modern era's defining quality. The story of information begins in a time when every thought and utterance vanishes as soon as it is born. From the invention of scripts and alphabets to the talking drums of Africa, Gleick tells the story of information technologies that changed the nature of human consciousness. He seeks to provide portraits of the key figures contributing to the development of modern understanding of information - Charles Babbage, the idiosyncratic inventor of the first great mechanical computer; Ada Byron, the daughter of the poet, who became the first true programmer; figures like Samuel Morse and Alan Turing; and Claude Shannon, the creator of information theory itself.