The Writing Code – PBS Stations

The Writing Code – PBS Stations, Fall 2007

(check local listings)

A Series of Documentary Films on the Most Important Invention in Human History

New York, Fall, 2007 – The Writing Code – a fast paced, educationally entertaining three-part documentary series premiering this Fall on PBS (check local listings), tracks the origin, history, definition and art of writing: the greatest invention in human history.

The subject matter, stressing the fundamental importance of writing in everything we do, has never been covered in a television series before. Featuring authors, anthropologists, linguists, historians, editors and poets, the series highlights writing as the greatest invention, looking further at the art and craft as well as true definition of literacy in our society today. Find out how writing gave us our civilization; how monks in Ireland invented spaces between words in order to help them read Latin and how mass literacy was first adopted in America. How in the Cherokee language each symbol stands for a syllable, how in Chinese, symbols define the meaning of the word on the left and sound on the right, how our modern day alphabet originates from Egyptian and how the Rosetta Stone helped archeologists and linguists come to decipher the true meaning of Egyptian hieroglyphs. Author Margaret Atwood reveals the best opening line in literature while author Elmore Leonard advises us never to start a book with the weather! Taking us from Cuneiform – one of the earliest forms of writing – on the mountain top of Iran – to the billboards of Times Square, the documentary shows we are born knowing language, but must learn how to write it down. From fortune cookies to traffic signs, from the Gutenberg’s press providing writing en masse to the typewriter computer, we learn how the Middle East through an early commercial recording device we now call “tokens” gave birth to writing in its earliest forms.

The series features world class leaders in the study of writing including William Bright and Peter Daniels (editors of The World’s Writing Systems), Victor Mair (Chinese writing scholar), James Allen (Professor of Egyptology at Brown University), Zahi Hawass (Chairman of the Supreme Council of Egyptian Antiquities), Richard Parkinson (British Museum), Steven Tinney (University of Pennsylvania), Lise Menn (socio-linguist), Denise Schmandt-Besserat (pioneer in pre-writing) and Mark Aronoff (Professor, Stony Brook University). Steven Pinker (Harvard cognitive psychologist and author), Carol Chomsky (Harvard reading specialist), Tim Berners-Lee (MIT, inventor of World Wide Web), Margaret Atwood and Elmore Leonard (authors), Quincy Troupe (former Poet Laureate of California), Neil de Grasse Tyson (N.Y. Museum of Natural History) and Chad Smith (Chief of the Cherokee Nation) also feature.

Award-winning filmmakers Gene Searchinger, Suzanne Bauman and Norman C. Berns, have put together a documentary series detailing a phenomenon basic to our intellectual endeavors, highlighting how writing became the key to a person’s immortality. The series suggests a new definition of literacy for our times – how to be literate requires an ‘economy of attention’ and an individual to sift through a surplus of information in order to find meaning. It tracks how recorded concepts of thought gave rise to sounds of syllables and then words; detailing how pictures representing just an idea limited our communication. True writing on the other hand, represents the entire range of our language.

For further information or copies of the series on DVD, please contact: Neil Dickens at WTD Communications – 323.463.2882 or visit:


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