With the development of civilisation and written languages came the
need for more frequent and reliable methods of communication allowing
messages to reach longer distances. This was essential to the control of
trade and other affairs between nations and empires.
Early man used cave walls as the media on which messages could be
transcribed, this was common for many years, until the Egyptians
discovered a special kind of rush (Papyrus) that could be woven to form a
portable writing material. In about 105AD the Chinese discovered a way to
make a similar substance from wood pulp.
Over the next few centuries printing techniques advanced rapidly,
especially through the use of steam power. The first typesetting machine,
the Linotype, was patented in 1884 by the German-American Ottmar
In the meantime, postal services and moved from being privately to
nationally owned, and long distance postal services became an affordable
option. For the first time, an ordinary person could correspond with
people in other countries. A visual semaphore system was also implemented
in both Europe and the United States, providing a way of 'echoing'
messages nationally via large towers placed in strategic positions;
however this proved slow as each method had to be verified to ensure
Following the discovery and partial understanding of electricity in the
18th Century scientists looked towards a way of relaying messages
electronically. This attracted great interest because of the speed and
efficiency such a system would bring, nevertheless it was not until 1837
that the first practical telegraph system was produced. In the years that
followed various offshoots were announced, modern telex systems are an
improved version of this basic concept.
Now that the basic frontiers of electronics had been broken,
telecommunications moved into a new era, in 1876 Alexander Graham Bell
patented the worlds first true speech telephone. Research into magnetism
had also revealed the relationship between magnetic fields and electric
currents, thus laying the technical foundation for wireless telegraphy.
Twenty five years later the Italian inventor Marchese Guglielmo Marconi
sent a wireless signal across the Atlantic Ocean, opening up new
possibilities for communication systems.
Satellite technology had been steadily increasing, with several already
launched. America was the leader in this technology, with satellites
programs such as the COMSAT and INTELSAT systems. These networks of
geostationary satellites covered the entire globe, handling approximately
50000 voice/data/video lines. Global communication was now relatively
From 1985 onwards the major growth area in technology has been with
Personal Computers. Bringing with it new uses for old technology. The
Internet has received so much media hype that the number of subscribers
is increasing exponentially. Electronic mail is not a new concept,
however it is only recently that people have started to use it on a large
scale. Large computer networks spanning the entire globe allow
communication between tens of millions of people. As the main form of
communication is text based and transfer speeds are slow e-mail is not a
dependable form of communication - but with the increase in cable
networks it could be a viable solution in the future.
These increases in communication have effected commercial and industrial
markets, companies specialising in communications have emerged and
thrived. The technology has a strategic role to play in the military,
allowing soldiers, aircraft, and base units to communicate freely without
the need for landlines. News agencies have also benefited from this
technology, it is now commonplace to see live pictures from a particular
news-story with the reporter using satellite technology to transmit the
broadcast. SKY television provides around 100 video channels, and a
handful of audio channels. This can be received in almost any part of the
world and hence has a huge audience. SKY is currently owned by an
American, Rupert Murdoch, who also has control over many other media
companies including many American and British newspapers. Ultimately he
has so much influence over what appears in the British media it would not
be a challenge to exploit this power to sway public opinion.
As we move into the next millennium communication systems are still under
rapid improvement. Fibre optic phone lines are being installed throughout
the country, and will allow faster digital communication expanding the
possibilities of computer communication. Internet 'Phones' are under
development allowing full duplex conversations between people over
different countries and continents. With advances in satellite
transmission it is now possible to purchase satellite phones from which
you can also check your e-mail. They operate from anywhere in the world
and are no larger than an average laptop computer.
National and international boundaries are becoming more and more
obsolete, it may be that in the future we are not run from London, but
Europe is governed as one large country from a central point. In the
words of Bill Wiley (vice president of PTT Telecom) "That long Distance
feeling is finally disappearing".