“Watson, come here. I want to see you.” Those were the first words ever spoken on a telephone, when it was invented by Alexander Graham Bell. But that was just the middle of the communications journey.
Communication started much earlier, and it’s evolved leagues ahead of that now, to develop into current technology that probably would have baffled Bell had he been able to see ahead in time.
Where It All Began
Even our earliest ancestors had a clear understanding of the importance of communication. Without it, we would be unable to make connections with other people and function in a commerce-driven arena.
It’s difficult to know exactly when or how communication started because we can’t talk to those who came first and the record isn’t clear. But there is some evidence that the earliest forms of communication occurred through hieroglyphics, or cave drawings.
Though cave drawings and human speech sufficed for people in the immediate vicinity, it didn’t take long for humans to feel the need for long-distance communication as well. After the invention of fire, the first means of communicating beyond the reach of a picture or a shout came the form of smoke signals.
Research confirms that smoke signals and fire are among the oldest forms of long-distance visual communication. The method dates back at least to 150 BC. A Greek historian by the name of Polybius developed a way to convey the alphabet by fanning torches, and this was a very popular system of communication along the Great Wall of China.
Native Americans also made major use of this medium. It was a time-consuming practice, and accuracy tended to be a problem, but it sufficed.
Smoke signals worked well if you stood on a high hill or atop the Great Wall, but if you needed to speak to someone miles away and there was no way he could see you, so a better solution was needed. That’s when the use of carrier pigeons occurred to someone.
In about the 12th century, an Egyptian sultan discovered that if you separated pigeons from their mates, they would travel hundreds of miles to find them. By attaching a note to the leg of the traveling pigeon, you could send messages far and wide.
This was a highly effective method in the world wars but of course it also had its flaws. Obviously, the messenger pigeon wouldn’t make it to the destination if it was shot down or eaten by another animal.
Communicating Over Wires
In 1844, the first telegraph message was sent. It traveled 40 miles, which seemed an impossible feat at the time. This message system sent electrical signals over wires.
A certified clerk would interpret the letters being transmitted and deliver the result to the recipient. Before long, wires were put up all over cities and across the U.S., which laid the groundwork for what experts call the communications revolution.
Based on this wire system, landline telephones were built starting in 1876 when Bell introduced the technology. Before cellular phones transmitted signals through electronic waves, wires were held on tall poles or buried under the ground, and allowed people to talk from thousands of miles away.
Though landlines have begun to phase out, many homes continue to employ this method, which was a staple in most homes as well as companies from the 1950s onward.
From Wires to Waves
As we all know, wires became an outdated tool thanks to cellular tech. In 1946, Swedish police were the first to make a call via cell phone. It was discovered that the same technology that transmitted the voice over wires could be done wirelessly via satellite waves.
The 1946 experiment was one of a kind, however. The first cell phone for the use of private citizens was not developed until 1973 by Martin Cooper. It was a brick compared to the compact hand-helds we know today: it measured 9x5x1.75 inches.
Getting a signal also required extending an antenna, or a long wire, to catch it. But there was no stopping the revolution at this point. We got dial-up Internet, an online connection established through your landline, in 1981, and email became a popular way to connect with friends, family, and between businesses.
Ten years later, homeowners started to trade in their annoying dial-up connection for WiFi. Today you’ll rarely find a house that lacks this connective ability. Not long after WiFi came in, developers began experimenting with the smart phone, and in 20 years, it would be the primary phone choice around the world.
As you know, tech is now such a huge part of daily life now that we wouldn’t be willing to live with the original models. Apple is now on its seventh official version of the iPhone with plans already in the making for the eighth.
Businesses are now run with this incredible communication technology. They’re not only able to make phone calls to people on the other side of the world, but they’re also able to video conference, hold meetings with multiple people, send texts and emails on a mass scale, and more. There are even apps like Dialpad that let you do all of those things in one application, whether you’re traveling or sitting at a desk. Those in the business sector are constantly looking to improve their technology applications.
Wireless Internet is becoming faster, and easier to connect to than ever before. Homes have started talking back and running themselves through smart-home tech.
Technology is constantly updating. It’s an impressive and constant presence in our society. The ability to communicate over long distances yet face to face is a capability our cave ancestors and even the settlers of the West could never have imagined.