Communication Revolution (Week 2)

NB:// This article follows the same referencing style as Wikipedia. That is, each superscript number corresponds to an entry in the reference list, but also has a link attached to the source of the information. I did this as a way to expand my knowledge of writing on the web and also because referencing each piece of information in this article would clutter the paragraphs and distract from the post.

This week the discussion topics were to investigate the key turning points in communication technology or to investigate the divisions in communication theory. I’ve chosen the relatively easier option because I feel like I could write endlessly about the divisions in communication technology. So to begin my investigation of the key turning points in history by looking at and comparing the entries of the following two timelines.

A very common myth is that the Egyptians were the first society to develop some form of writing. However, it was the Phoenicians in 3500BC who created an alphabet and shortly followed by the Sumerians who developed cuneiform script and transcribed these pictographs on clay tablets1 2. These two societies were far in advance of the Egyptians who are possibly the most famous ancient civilization in history. They gave birth to modern-day written script in Western civilization.

The next key advancement came in 1835 when Samuel Morse proved that signals could be transmitted by wire3. By joining forces with physicist Joseph Henry and Alfred Vail, Morse created the first electric telegraph4 system. They experimented with pulses of currents and electromagnets to move a marker over a piece of paper10. He invented Morse Code which was a huge step forward in sending messages (albeit coded) and was a very prominent method of long distance communication. For more information about Morse code, its importance and developments look at the following website:

Following this, I believe Alexander Graham Bell’s creation/patenting of the telephone to be the next key development in the history of communication5. The telephone allowed two people to send a vocal message over indeterminable distance and hear it live. The telephone was positively revolutionary. The main factor of the telephone’s popularity was the fact that it changed communication into a live experience and one where you could communicate to someone anywhere (well, not quite). It was a lot faster than sending a letter and was very exciting. But the telephone’s importance was not only important to the time it was invented. It has been a crucial development whose repercussions are felt today. Without the telephone we would not have radio, the internet, or home phones, or god-forbid, our beloved mobile phones; all of which allow endless and instant communication right at our fingertips.

Subsequently, the development of the television once again revolutionized societies worldwide. In 1923, Vladimir Kosma Zworykin invented the iconoscope (cathode-ray tube)6,which was our first simple television. At first television was not so popular as it was expensive and rarely available. As well, radio was experiencing its “golden age” and television threatened its popularity. The invention of the tv allowed audiovisual communication but also created hundreds of new industries eg. television corporations, production companies, etc. Each new development so far has not only had explicit effects on society but also implicit ones in the future. A good example of this from the development of the television is the obesity epidemic, which is fuelled by society’s addiction to the screen and the ease of understanding what is going on. Television allowed us to sit and relax and absorb information like sponges.

Evidently, the invention of the modern-day computer changed society all over again. It expanded on previous simple “computing” technologies and combined these with the television concept to create a device that would change the world forever; the age of Information Science7 begins. Computers were put into public service in 1944 and were owned primarily by the government. However, they weren’t sold commercially until 19518. These early devices were nothing like the computers we know and love today and even differ greatly from the chunky home computers which were distributed by Apple Inc. in 19769.

Finally, and in a spectacular finish to our search for key turning points, the internet and World Wide Web was created by the American government in 199411. Its invention saw people communicating “at the speed of light” (we know the first dial-up connections were as slow as snails). As previously mentioned in other blog posts, the internet has sparked and perpetuated a certain laziness among Western civilizations. It has replaced the popularity of books and is a database of anything and everything you’d ever want to know. And it continues to grow and change and evolve, just like all technology.

The important thing to gather from all this information is that no change in communication practices and development in technology goes unnoticed or without positive and negative repercussions. As a society, we must consider what changes are having ongoing positive effects, what changes have had no influence at all and what changes have caused regressions in communication practices.

Catch you later cats and kittens,

Anneleise xx



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