our everyday life

The History of Communication Technology

by Rachel Levy Sarfin

Humans have relied on communication from time immemorial to relay messages to one another. Nowadays, we use complex technology to send important information to our loved ones, friends and business associates. However, the technologies we use today did not always exist. Human beings have relied on various methods to communicate with each other. These methods have depended on the progress science had made at that time.

Drawing

Prehistoric cave drawings are considered the first form of human communication. Some early humans dwelt in caves, which provided shelter from the elements and predatory animals. To convey past events of importance, rituals or ideas, cave dwellers would draw pictures on the walls of their homes. Language had not developed to the point at which it was adequate to convey these concepts, so drawings communicated what words could not.

Writing

Written language developed as humans settled into agrarian communities. The switch from hunting-based societies to non-nomadic lifestyles based on agriculture took place roughly 9,000 years ago. Writing became important as humans recognized the need to keep records of property and trade. At first, pictures represented the objects that were being written about. As societies developed further, pictures then represented sounds. Ultimately in the West, the language of pictures gave way to letters, which were graphic representations of particular sounds. Stringing letters together created words.

Printing

For hundreds of years, documents were written by hand, which could be time consuming. The skill of writing was confined to an elite, well-educated class, most of whom were clergy. In the 14th century, block printing became popular. Block printing involved using individual etched wooden blocks to print single words or letters. This process was expensive and inefficient. In 1454, German goldsmith Johannes Gutenberg invented a printing machine that contained movable blocks. Gutenberg's invention revolutionized book production, making books affordable and accessible.

Telegraph

The invention of the printing press certainly made it easier to communicate, but it could take days or weeks for the written word to arrive at its destination. Scientists searched for a faster way to transmit information. French scientists developed a communication system that used light to transmit signals in the late 18th century. American inventor Samuel Morse improved this system by creating a machine that transformed speech into electric signals and then into written words. His telegraph became a popular method to communicate quickly.

Telephone

The invention of the telegraph was the inspiration for further advances in communication technology. Using the principle behind the telegraph, American inventors Elisha Grey and Alexander Graham Bell transformed speech into an electrical signal. Unlike the telegraph, this electrical signal was transformed back into speech. This invention ultimately became more popular than the idea it was based on, and the telegraph became a thing of the past.

Digital Technology

Computers represented a huge leap in communication technology. Originally, computers were used perform complex mathematical equations. Eventually, scientists realized that computers could be used to communicate as well. The precursor to the Internet was created in 1989, and it allowed scientists to share documents with each other through their computers. It was not long before the Internet became publicly accessible. This technological innovation made communication faster than ever before.

About the Author

Rachel Levy Sarfin has been writing professionally since 1998. She has written for the "Yardley News" and the Healthwise Lifewise blog, and served as the Jerusalem correspondent for the Omanoot website. Sarfin completed her Master of Arts in Middle Eastern studies at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

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