Information: A History; A Theory; A Flood

The Information A History A Flood A Theory by James Gleick is a history of Information leading up to development of Information Theory and its practical applications. It then briefly touches upon the flood(or ramifications) of Information Theory.  

Reading this book might be more of a challenge than it seems at first glance. It gives the appearance of pop non fiction and then proceeds into the history of information and then information theory concepts and implications. It is a harder read but if one is a up for a challenge there is some great history and concepts to be learned.

Charles Babbage and the Telegraph

There is a lot of history in the book with entire chapters on figures like Charles Babbage and his attempts to build a difference engine(analog computer). Unrelated, a story about Babbages invention, called The Difference Engine by William Gibson, is often credited as the first work of steampunk fiction. There is also entire chapters on importance of the telegraph as the foundation of modern information theory.

African Drums

The Information A History A Flood A Theory by James Gleick covers the history of African people using drums to communicate complex messages. They communicated through the drums not just simple signals but entire sentences that could convey any number of relatively complicated messages.

This “drum language” utilizes another concept redundancy in a message. Drum communication was the fastest form of communication in the world until the invention of the railroad.

Redundancy is the repetition or superfluity of information in order to ensure error free communication. This review cannot do justice to the complexity of messages drum communication conveyed. Talking through drums is a alien to concept to the modern world.


This book gives a good history of information and information theory. It teaches the evolution of mans understanding of information over the past 200 years or sot.. It is pop nonfiction that leans towards scholarly history. The chapter on the drum makes “The Information” worth reading.