How technology has impacted on the way we communicate

Technology has advanced considerably over the last century, the birth of the internet sped up our advancement and indeed desire for new and improved communication services, but just how much has changed?

Early forms of communication

Early forms of communication mainly centred on the use of imagery rather than words, using these methods to communicate a story or historical event.
These communication methods included:

  • The Petroglyphs – Early man used stone engravings and drawings to communicate with each other, way before even spoken word appeared.
  • The pictograph – Engraved or painted drawings were used to communicate a story or an event and were very popular around 6000 – 5000 BC.
  • The Ideogram – Pictograms evolved into ideograms which were graphical symbols that represented an idea, the Egyptians and Aztecs were particularly fond of these early forms of communication.
  • Smoke Signals – 150BC – Chinese soldiers were able to transmit messages in just a few hours with smoke signals along the Great Wall of China.
  • The First Handwritten Manuscript – 301 – 800AD

Getting more sophisticated

In the early 1400’s communication methods began to get more advanced with the Gutenberg printing press leading the way allowing for communications over long distances and languages.
Followed by:

  • Semaphore Lines – Invented in 1792 in France by Claude Chappe, were the precursor of the electrical telegraph. The Semaphore telegraph was a system of conveying information by the method of visual signs using towers and shutters.
  • Morse Code – In 1837 the Morse code was developed and patented by Samuel Morse
  • Typewriter – 1800’s – The typewriters first publication was the Adventure of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. It wasn’t until 19140 that the mechanical typewriter became standardised and indeed electric, gaining widespread popularity and an office essential! By the 1980’s the humble typewriter had made way to personal computers and desktop publishing.
  • The Telegraph – Patented in May 1837 by Sir William Fothergill Cooke and Charles Wheatstone the telegraph was created initially to communicate between train stations. In 1845 the Electric Telegraph company was established, followed by rapid expansion and the era of mass communication. Before  the Telegraph a letter by post from London took 12 days to reach New York and 73 days to reach Sydney, Australia
  • The Telephone – 1848, invented by Alexander Graham Bell and was the first device in history that enabled people to talk directly to each other over long distances. It wasn’t until the 1960’s when telephones evolved digitally.
  • The Radio – The use of the radio picked up during World War I with the development for military communications, but it wasn’t until the 1920’s that commercial mass broadcasting began.

Video Killed the Radio Star

  • The television –Developed in 1927 the television didn’t become common place until after World War II. The colour TV was introduced in the mid 1960’s, from there we have seen the television progress into Smart TV’s with 3D capability.
  • The Internet – Started in 1969 as a US military project and was the foundation for the modern internet, but it wasn’t commercialised until 1990 when English scientist Tim Berners-Lee developed the World Wide Web. The internet has grown phenomenally since the 90’s and is now a tool that business and the general public alike struggle to live without.
  • Search Engines – The first major commercial search engine went live in 1994 and was called Lycos, soon after many search engines appeared including: AltaVista and Yahoo, but it wasn’t until 2000 Google’s search engine rose to prominence. Search engines are one of the most useful communication tools out there.
  • Wikis – Believe it or not the first Wiki was created in 1994 in Portland Oregan. Wikipedia is the most well-known wiki site and contains useful information about pretty much any subject known to man.

Let’s get digital

  • The Pager – Originally developed as a professional tool, allowing business people to keep connected to the office this device quickly became a social tool. A precursor to the modern mobile phone this communication had a brief window of time until eventually the mobile phone took over and replaced it. I still miss getting the lottery results on a Saturday evening!
  • Instant Messaging – Or online chat as it was historically known was developed in 1996 and allowed online users to communicate with each other in chat rooms, online bulletin boards . This has since progressed to applications such as Facebook messenger and Blackberry Messenger which also enable video calling and web conferencing services such as Skype and Facetime.
  • Electronic mail (eMail) – Has been around as we know it since 1993, however the first hosted mail systems were introduced as early as the 1960’s. Email has revolutionised the way we communicate with each other, in fact it is hard to imagine how long things would take to get done if we had to rely on other forms of communication.
  • The mobile phone – Amazingly the first mobile phone was demonstrated by Motorola in 1973, but it wasn’t until 1983 that the first 1G phone went to market with talk time of just 35 minutes and a 10 hour charge life! It is a far cry from where this technology is today.
  • The Smart Phone – Mass adoption of Smart phones took place in 1999. Initially with BlackBerry dominating the market as the go-to communication tool of the 00’s. However this was quickly over taken by Apple who introduced the very first iPhone in 2007. Since then Smart Phone technology has grown rapidly, integrating our work, social and family life together in one singular device.

It is clear to see that technology has hurtled forward, but there are no signs of stopping. The internet of things is revolutionising our working and personal lives and I strongly believe that we will soon tools such as 3D virtual conferencing emerging into the business world.
It is inevitable that communication will get even faster, smarter, easier and more often, but I feel that it will take time for context and understanding to catch-up. How many times have you sent an email, a text message or Facebook message that has been misunderstood by the recipient, I expect the answer is often. This is one area that our communication tools need to get better at and to do so it will require sophisticated systems to learn things like sarcasm and sense of humour.
One thing for sure though, we are living in very exciting and fast paced times and communication will continue to evolve as we do.