The Evolution of Communication through the Centuries

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Communication is very important. It is a key to understanding between people. Through the years, communication has evolved. The way people communicate with each other today is entirely different from the prehistoric era. Before, communicating is limited to interpersonal interaction – person to person. Until it evolved to alphabets, signs and symbols, letters, and telephone. Today, the Internet era has paved the way to innumerable means of communication.

Technology has indeed redefined communication. People no longer have to wait for years, months, weeks, and days to receive an information or message. Today, texts, e-mails, tweets, and personal messages can reach the recipient in just a matter of seconds.

Let us see how communication evolved throughout the years.

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Cave Paintings

The oldest form of symbols used for communication is cave paintings. According to theorists, cave paintings were created to mark a territory or to record events. The oldest cave painting was discovered inside Chauvet Cave in France around 30,000 B.C. Other earliest cave paintings were found in South Sulawesi, Indonesia and Coliboaia Cave in Romania.

Symbols

Our early ancestors have used different variations of signs and symbols to communicate. Around 10,000 B.C., petroglyphs were created. They were carvings in the rock surface, usually referred to as a rock art. In 9,000 B.C., pictograms were developed in which ancient people logographic images to tell a story. Later on, ancient cultures developed ideograms. Egyptians had their hieroglyphs. Chinse created characters. Lastly, the alphabet, which redefined language and communication was developed around 2,000 B.C.

Smoke Signals

Apart from letters and symbols, ancient people also rely on elements to communicate. Smoke signals were primarily used in sending messages in China. In 200 B.C., guards execute smoke signals to send messages along The Great Wall of China. In 150 B.C., Greek Historian Polybius developed smoke signals representing the alphabet.

Carrier Pigeons

As we all know, pigeons are naturally great with directions. Over 2,000 years ago, the ancient Romans used pigeons as primary messengers between military men. In the 12th century, messenger pigeons were widely used. According to Naval chaplain Henry Teonge, merchants used pigeons as a “postal” service. They also played a vital role in World Wars I and II.

Postal System

During the ancient period, Egyptians used courier serve to send out decrees in 2,400 B.C. Until now, a piece of mail which dates back to 255 B.C. is still preserved. Postal systems were also organized in Persia, China, India, and Rome before. On the other hand, it was only in 1653 when Frenchman De Valayer started a postal system in Paris which involved the use of mailboxes and delivery of paid envelopes.

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Newspaper

In 1440, German Johannes Gutenberg developed the printing press system which radically changed communication forever. With this, the newspaper began to flourish in the 16th century. The German-language publication of Johann Carolus in Strasbourg in 1605 was the first newspaper. The first English-language newspaper was published in Amsterdam in 1620.

Radio

After print media flourished, radio followed. In the 1830s, various scientists, such as Maxwell and Hughes studied on wireless telegraphy which developed the theory of electromagnetism. In 1888, Heinrich Rudolf Hertz discovered “Hertzian waves”, named after him. In 1893, Tesla started using wireless power as a form of transmitting content. In the early 20th century, radio broadcasting began.

Telegraph

Telegraph communication started after Samuel Morse invented the Morse code which encoded the ISO basic Latin alphabet. The Morse code transmitted messages through series of clicks, tones, and lights. In 1830, Morse integrated the Morse code in telegraphy technology that revolutionized the long-distance communication. In 1844, Morse sent his first telegraph message.

Telephone

The telegraphy was immediately replaced by the telephone. It was invented by Scottish Alexander Graham Bell in 1876. The telephone acts is a telecommunication device that converts human audio signals to electronic signals which are transmitted via cables. It was further developed to commercially cater to local and long distant calls. In the 1900s, landline telephone service began. Up until now, the telephone remained one of the most reliable telecommunication devices.

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Television

Along with telephones, television started to become a mode of indirect communication to the mass audience. The television was not just invented by a single person, but developed through the efforts of various brilliant people. The earliest records of TV broadcasting occurred after the World War II, in which the display was still black and white.  Now, more than 1.5 billion households in the world own a television.

Internet

After the creation of computers in the 1950s, the ARPANET, which was the early predecessor of the internet was developed. The ARPANET was designed to manage communication between ARPA computer terminals in the 1960s. The term “internet” first emerged in 1973. The first internet service provider was the Telenet. In 1983, the domain system started. In 1991, Tim Berners-Lee, a scientist at CERN, introduced the World Wide Web (www) which definitely started the modern internet.

E-mail

With the onset of the internet, electronic mails started to become popular. Although emails came before the ARPANET, however, it was “offline”. In 1975, John Vittal developed a software to organize emails. From that time, 75% of ARPANET traffic was email. In 1994, Yahoo! was born. It was followed by other mailing platforms, including Hotmail and Google Mail.

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Text Message

The first official SMS messaging took place on December 3, 1992, when Neil Papworth, an engineer from Sema Group (now Airwide Solutions) used a computer to send “Merry Christmas” through the Vodafone network. In 1994, the Radiolinja was the first network service provider to carry out person-to-person text messaging. Now, SMS has evolved in which over 9 trillion SMS are sent every year.

Social Media

The latest mode of communication in the digital era is the use of social media platforms. It has become more available because of the proliferation of smartphones where social media apps can easily be installed. In 2004, Facebook was created by Mark Zuckerberg. Today, the Messenger is one of the most widely used messaging apps. There are more than two billion Facebook users worldwide. In 2005, YouTube became the first-ever popular video hosting social media site. In 2006, Twitter began to dominate the social media scene. Other social media platforms have followed.

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Indeed, communication has gone through a lot of stages before it became so convenient and efficient today. Thus, our role is to use these communication tools responsibly and in the right way.

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