In the first part of this blog, A brief history of Telecommunications, we covered the first 3 stages of the evolution in human communication (from prehistory to the mid-15th century).
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In this second part, we will see how in only one century, the telecommunication evolution sped up and evolved in this short period more than in the previous thousands of years to reach what we have in the present days. Starting with the fourth stage (since the beginning of the 19th century) with the development of telecommunications and broadcasting and on the fifth stage (mid-20th century), computers’ integration into telecommunications.
Fourth stage: Development of telecommunications and broadcasting (since the beginning of the 19th century)
In the late 18th century, a series of discoveries in electromagnetism began that led to an era of phenomenal expansion in telecommunications. Telegraphy was born in 1835, based on electromagnetic findings and Morse code development by Samuel F. Morse. Morse code was publicly tested for the first time in 1837, and seven years later, the first telegraph service began between Washington DC and Baltimore. This event is considered the birth of modern telecommunications.
In 1865, Morse code was accepted as a world standard during the first International Telegraphy convention, and this gave rise to the International Telecommunications Union (ITU).
Telegraphy was also the basis for the first telegram services. It provided the means for sending short text messages between post offices so that immediate delivery to the addressee could be arranged through the postman, who was in charge of taking it by bicycle.
In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone (although many credits this invention to Antonio Meucci, who developed a voice communication device in 1857 and could not patent it due to lack of money. On June 11, 2002, the United States Congress approved resolution 269 by which recognized that the inventor of the telephone had been Meucci and not Alexander Graham Bell). Since then, it has become an inseparable part of society. The first telephone service began in 1877.
Meanwhile, in Argentina, on March 12, 1881, in the City of Buenos Aires, authorizations for the installation of telephones were granted to the companies Compañía GowerBell and Continental de Telefonos Bell Perfeccionado simultaneously. The latter merged with the Sociedad Nacional de Panteléfono (which had authorization from December 16, 1882) and, together, they founded the Unión Telefónica del Río de la Plata. The first telephone was installed in the private residence of the Minister of the Interior, Dr. Bernardo de Irigoyen; the second, that same day, at the residence of the National President, Julio Argentino Roca; and the third, also that same day, at the house of the Mayor of Buenos Aires City, Marcelo T. de Alvear. To complete the number of twenty that was the maximum allowed, the rest were installed in the Sociedad Rural Argentina, the Jockey Club and other large entities. In 1929 the first telephone link between Argentina and Europe was established.
The person wishing to make a call had to inform the central office, where the operator was, of the need for service. For this, the first telephones were equipped with a crank electric generator (similar to the dynamo of bicycles), which was rotated vigorously to notify the operator of the desire for service. Later this crank was replaced by a direct current that was run when the telephone was lifted and that lit a lamp on a dashboard at the operator’s position. The operator responded to the call by asking for the number with which the person wanted to communicate, then making the corresponding connections to establish the communication channel.
The first automatic switching machines had to emulate the task of the operator, in spirit, but not in detail. One of the first to appear and by far the most successful design is that attributed to Almond B. Strowger of Kansas City in the United States. Patented in 1889 and first installed in La Porte (Indiana) on November 3, 1892, the concept is quite straightforward and continues to be used in various parts of the world even today.
Strowger had a funeral home, and the story tells that a rival company took over most of the business thanks to the owner’s wife being the operator of the phone system. This way, any grieving person who called to be connected to a funeral home was never referred to Strowger’s! Annoyed by the amount of business being lost in this way, he decided to invent a system that would eliminate the need for telephone operators and thus patented the first automatic telephone selector.
Radio and television broadcasting also began during this fourth stage. The invention of the Marconi wireless in 1895, Fleming’s Diode in 1904, and De Forest’s tube amplifier in 1906 provided the technological foundation for the development of broadcasting.
The regular broadcasting service began in 1920 in the United States, although the first radio broadcast in the world took place at 9:06 p.m. on August 27, 1920, in Buenos Aires, Argentina. That night, from the Coliseo Theater in this capital, the opera Parsifal, by Wagner, was broadcast live, with the musical direction of Félix Weingartner, the interpretation of the soprano Sara César and the baritone Aldo Rossi Morelli, which was followed by a select group of about 50 people. Those responsible for this historical event were Doctor Enrique Susini and the medical students Miguel Mujica, César Guerrico and Luis Romero Carranza who went down in history as “Los locos de la azotea” who had armed the 5 Watt transmitter equipment with junk valves used by the French army in the First World War. “Here Radio Argentina transmits from Buenos Aires,” said Susini, making his words the first to be heard on the radio wave. This transmission took place from the then baptized LOR Radio Argentina – which later, on November 19, 1923, became LR2 Radio Argentina when it officially obtained the first radio license – mounted by Susini, Mujica, Guerrico and Carranza on the terrace of the Coliseo theater.
As of January 1, 1998 Radio Argentina – 1110 Khz- became part of Radio Municipal, today Radio de la Ciudad.
In 1929, the BBC began experimental television broadcasting in the United Kingdom. In 1930, several countries began to experiment with television broadcasting. In Argentina, only in 1951 started television broadcasting by the hand of Jaime Yankelevich.
Fifth stage: Integration of computers into telecommunications (mid-20th century)
The Data communication – the integration of telecommunications and computers – made its appearance with the SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) the first practical data communication system of the United States Air Force which began operating in 1958. This initial system, designed for air defense, has had a significant influence on the successive data communication systems. Thus, in 1964 appeared the SABRE (Semi-Automatic Business Research Environment), an air ticket reservation system that was soon followed by other private data communication systems. Data communication has spread the application of the computer from government agencies, industrial and financial companies to other fields such as medical treatment and education. Since computers started to be no longer limited only to commercial activities and more and more people began to have one at home for personal use, it leads to the emergence of computer networks.
Computer networks began to gain space in the 1970s when users began to need communication between their computers to share resources such as databases, printers, etc.
Initially, data communication used the telephone network, converting data to sound signals using a modem. This represents the earliest form of physical integration between data and voice. Later, public and private data networks were created that offer greater reliability and greater transmission capacity. Within the same building, the use of local area networks (LAN) based on special cabling became common. Typically, these LANs had an outlet to the public or private network. In the end, this led to what today is the internet.
The Internet is a federation of computer networks that allows communication between users and the transfer of data files from one machine to any other on the network. All these networks are interconnected, but with economic and administrative independence. Its birth dates back to the 1960s as a US military research initiative, and its use expanded when it joined the NFSnet (funded and supported by the National Science Foundation), a kind of backbone linking the main supercomputers that manage the academic, scientific and technological networks of Universities and scientific government entities and high technology companies.
How will the telecommunications world look in the year 2100 or 2200? It is very difficult to foresee. Scientific research and technological developments are moving at a faster rate than most of us can grasp.
Though the details are obscure, we can nevertheless be sure about the general direction that is taking by the introduction of the quantum mechanics phenomenon in computing and communication. But this will be part of my next blog.
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