A Brief History of Telecommunications

This blog briefly reviews the history of telecommunications, which, in addition to being extremely interesting, is quite little known.

Why is humanity complicated using phones, WhatsApp, Skype, Hangouts, e-mails, Slack, Zoom, etc.? Simply to convey information. The world around us is overflowed with information. All the time our ears, eyes, hands, mouth, and nose sense the environment around us, increasing our knowledge.

We call Communication the dissemination, transmission or exchange of ideas, knowledge or information. This can be done through words, images, movements, smells or perhaps simply by winking an eye!

Adding the prefix “Tele”, which means distance, we form the word Telecommunications or Distance Communications. In the broadest sense of the word, we have remote communication in the lighthouse that guides a fleet, in the postal mail that transports a letter by different means to connect two destinations, in the sounds of the whales in the depth of the ocean, or in the smell on which the dogs learn to lead their social life.

All the systems mentioned above have a lot in common, regardless of where, when, and by whom. In principle, all of them require a transmitter, a means of transport or transmission means, a receiver, and a source of information that must be equally understandable from both sides.

The evolution in human communication took thousands of years and can be divided into the following 5 fundamental stages:

First stage: Language and signs with fire (prehistory)

Language was the first significant development in human communication.

Since verbal communication is only effective at relatively close distances, fire signals appeared as a means of communication between two distant points.

Second stage: Formation of writing systems (4000 years BC)

The human formulation of writing systems allowed information to be transmitted beyond the limits of time and space. The development of papyrus by the Egyptians permitted information to be exchanged through the use of messengers. This is the origin of the postal service.

In the Middle Ages, religious and public organizations were the ones that operated the postal system. The scope of these systems grew with the expansion of trade. The modern postal system was founded in Europe around the middle of the 15th century when postal services were consolidated on a national scale.

Third stage: Invention of the printing press (mid-15th century)

Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press in the mid-15th century. Gutenberg’s invention spread quickly throughout Europe because it made possible lower-cost plates, faster prints, and better quality. This development led to the mass production and mass circulation of information and the newspapers’ subsequent appearance.

In the second part of this blog, 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. On the fourth stage (since the beginning of the 19th century), we will see the development of telecommunications and broadcasting. On the fifth stage (mid-20th century), we will discuss the integration of computers into telecommunications.

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