History of Communication

History of Communication

Today we live in what we call the ‘Space Age’, the age of satellite communication where a message is communicated across thousands of miles at the click of a button. Every second person on the road is busily engrossed in his cell phone communicating with someone else on some other road in some other place. We are so used to the ‘fast life’ that we don’t quite ponder, nor do we get the time to, about those times, not very long ago, when a message took days, weeks and months to reach its intended destination. And some of the messages by the time they reached had already lost their significance.

Today we associate communication with electronic communication. But if we go through the history of mankind we see that down the ages there have been several breakthrough developments in the field of communication each of which characterized that particular period. The first major achievement was man’s ability to make and recognize sound which developed to a more recognizable speech in the Nomadic Ages that separated man from the other animals that roamed the earth and laid the foundation for what we are today. Thus the nomadic man communicated using a limited stock of sounds and expressed his feelings through cave paintings.

Climbing the rungs of civilization as man moved from the caves to the fields and started growing his own crops, he invented a new form of communication – writing. The earlier forms of writing used symbols to represent words and were called ideographic writing which gave way to a more scientific and still prevalent alphabetic writing. Initial writing was mainly confined to inscriptions on the temple walls and clay tablets which gradually found its way to leaves and dried barks. Soon the first rolls of papyrus appeared making a larger impact on the society. This new mode of communication allowed a communicator who may be physically separated from the audience to communicate with a potentially unlimited number of persons. It helped in the sharing of knowledge and cultures which led to the development of society. It also enabled recording of historical events, ideologies and philosophies which were earlier passed down only by word of mouth.

The next significant revolution in the field of communication came with the invention of the Printing Press around the middle of the 15th century. For the next four hundred years print media proved to be the most powerful mode of communication. Printing also aided the dissemination of knowledge. Scientific journals could present carefully expressed arguments to interested readers. Political writers used this medium to influence the thinking of the public. General newsletters or newspapers attracted a mass readership that could be tapped by advertisers. Companies used this medium to advertise their products thus ensuring that they reach a wide range of consumers. Thus, commerce found a way to sell its wares through printed literature.

With the invention of electricity and the advent of the ‘electronics era’ the development of communication technology has taken an exponential growth. This includes several devices invented in the 19th and 20th centuries which made it possible to record sensuous images as well as words. Photography was the forerunner of this technology. Then there came the electric telegraph, the telephone, phonograph, motion-picture machine, radio, and television. Each device is capable of preserving aural or visual images and of projecting them to large and scattered audiences. Today a life without telephone or television would seem as impossible as a life with them would have seemed two hundred years back. The invention of artificial satellites aided in further speeding up the process of communication.

However the greatest and the most significant of them all was yet to come. It was in the year 1969 the United States Department of Defence launched ARPANET network, the forerunner of today’s Internet, which inter-connected all the computers in the department. It took another 14 years for the Internet to emerge when ARPANET splits civilian from military networks. And with the year 1991 began the reign of the World Wide Web which virtually brought the whole world at our fingertips. There is no limit to the amount or type of information that can be transmitted through it. Textual as well as audio-visual information can be transmitted across oceans and continents, all in the blink of an eye.

Over the last 200 years there has been huge advancements in the field of science and technology. One of the major factors for this is the free flow of knowledge. One man’s invention or discovery no longer remained confined within himself or his immediate associates. It reached out to a larger population inspiring more people to work on a particular invention thereby either making new inventions themselves or improving the original one. Hence we see that development of communication systems brought about advancement of science and technology which brought further development in communication systems. However this leaves a few questions hovering in our minds. Where is all this technology leading us to? Will this advancement of technology ever cease? What will be the next breakthrough invention? How will it affect the human society? Well… only time can tell.


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