Skip to main content

Have you heard the famous speech of Steve Jobs at Stanford University where he said

You cannot connect the dots looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward. So you have to trust that the dots will connect somehow in future.’

If you haven’t then first hear it here. What you think how true is that? 

 I believe it’s very true probably you too think that. But actually, how many of us do that in real life. How many people learn something out of his comfort zone or probably something which has no direct relevance with his present job. For example, if someone works as a software engineer, how many such people would agree to learn something other than software technology, maybe learning pottery, learning about Chemistry or learning juggling. These things may not have a direct relevance to the work of a software engineer then why should he learn those. One answer is of course out of curiosity but it can be more than a hobby in your future, it can dramatically help you in your life in the future. Just the way Steve Jobs said. Had Steve Jobs not learned Calligraphy, we would not have beautiful typefaces on our personal computers. Although Calligraphy had nothing to do with Jobs life at that time.

There are many more examples in the world where inventions, discoveries happened when people connected knowledge and information from different fields. Today I am going to share one such great invention.

Do you ever realize how lucky are we for being born in this era?                                                I often used to think in my schooldays why people like Marco Polo, Xuanzang, Faxian, Ibn Battuta, Amerigo Vespucci and many more whom we consider as people who were wise traveled so much all over the world. They were in an era when the world was disconnected, so the only way to discover something or gain knowledge is to experience more by traveling around the world (which is also true today).

Travelling quote

Traveling is a great way to learn even today but we have now options to learn about anything about the world without going there, every day we get news of the whole world via newspapers, we can learn and gain knowledge about anyone and anything by reading books. How cool is that!. I know it seems very obvious today as we can never imagine the life of that era.

And the credit for bringing the world closer goes to that person who made it newspapers, books or anything we read on paper accessible to everyone. Yeah, I am talking about ‘Johannes Gutenberg’. We all know about his discovery of the printing press. What is more interesting and unknown to most of the people is how he discovered the printing press. 

Johannes Gutenberg born in 1395 in Mainz, Germany into a modest Merchant family. When a craftsman started taking violent action against the ruler in Mainz, the family of Gutenberg was exiled and settled in what is now Strasbourg, France between 1428 to 1430. Gutenberg was skilled at metalwork. By that time he was known as a goldsmith. His entrepreneurial mind was looking for some invention, by which he can make money quickly. 

By that time somewhere between 1434 to 1444 Rhineland in Germany was booming because of the huge amount of wine manufacturing. The wine making machine in Rhineland that time used the screw press. Gutenberg got very interested in those winemaking machines. But his enthusiasm was not in wines but in words.

Before this Gutenberg tried to sell mirrors to pilgrims. At that time, there was a trend in attaching small mirrors to one’s hat or clothes in order to soak up healing powers when visiting holy places or icons. But he failed in his mirror business venture.

Then he immersed himself in the technology of Rhineland wine vintners. Printing was not a new concept at that time. Four centuries back moveable type printing had been independently conceived by a Chinese blacksmith named Pi Sheng and people had developed by that time very basic form of printing.  It involved letters or images cut on blocks of wood. The block would be dipped in ink and then stamped onto paper. But it was not efficient enough for mass production. 

Being a goldsmith Gutenberg made some brilliant modifications to the metallurgy behind the moveable type systems. Instead of wood, he used metal for letter and images.  He realized that if he could use cut blocks within a machine, he could make the printing process a lot faster. Even better, he would be able to reproduce texts in great numbers. Being familiar with the screw press, his knew this is possible.

Finally, in 1440 he invented his printing press, which he titled Kunst und Aventur (art and enterprise). In 1448 he returned to Mainz, where he continued his work and within two years his printing press was in operation in whole Europe. Johannes Gutenberg Became famous and the whole world is benefited by his invention.

Johannes Gutenberg

Johannes Gutenberg

If you observe bit closely the whole story of Gutenberg invention you will find that Gutenberg’s printing press was a combinatorial innovation. Key elements of his printing press which are – the moveable type, the ink, the paper and the screw press had been developed separately well before Gutenberg’s invention. Gutenberg collected everything in one place and made a useful machine.

Had he never shown interest in Rhineland winemaking machines (which used the screw press), he would not be the inventor of the printing press. It’s Gutenberg’s curiosity to learn things beyond his field of expertise and his ability to connect them made him so special. He took the idea from a machine designed to get people drunk and turned it into a machine for mass communication.


Gutenberg’s Printing Press

This is why I feel we are very lucky to born in this era. We have access to almost all the knowledge and information of the world. If only we want, we can learn many things, whether they are within our specific field of expertise or beyond it. All we have to remember is ‘Everything is Connected’. 

So next time if you want to learn something but not sure how this can help you remember ‘you have to trust that the dots will connect somehow in future’– as Steve Jobs said.



Happy learning. Have an incredible week. Until next time                                                                                                                                                                  -Joy



  1. Read the story of the printing press
  2. Gutenberg’s printing press revolutionized the world





Like reading this blog? Subscribe and get updates in your inbox every time I publish something new 

2 Thoughts

Post your thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.