We have seen rapid growth and development in technology in the past 30 years. It is said that technology will double or maybe even triple every 3-5 years. In this presentation, I will summarize the history of communication up to the “Communications Revolution.” Communication simply means the act of communicating or conveying some information. If we rewind the clock 30 years we would not have the internet, Nintendo, and cell phones. If we turn the clock back an additional 100 years, we would have been very proficient in using telegraphs and writing letters would have been the main form of communication. So what were the earliest forms of communication up to the “Communications Revolution?”
After the birth of early civilizations and succeeding and falling empires, the spoken and written language had made great developments. Most notably were Hamurabi’s code of laws (2100 BC) and the writing on cuneiform and later clay tablets. The next significant development in communications came with the development of roads in the Persian Empire (500 BC). The development of roads provided the king with a faster and more efficient way of receiving information that would inform him of possible invaders and other goings of the empire. If a Satrap wanted to inform the king of an important matter, he would send a messenger on horseback to travel these roads that connected the cities together. This was important since the Persian Empire was just as large as the Roman Empire covering 2,900,000 square miles. A messenger on horseback or on a ship would have been the fastest form of communication up to the “Jacksonian Era” (1820-1850).
There will be later developments in literary forms of communication like Guttenberg’s Printing Press but that is not included in the scope of this presentation.
On the twenty-fourth of May 1844, Professor Samuel F. B. Morse, seated amidst a hushed gathering of distinguished national leaders in the chambers of the United States Supreme Court in Washington, tapped out a message on a device of cogs and coiled wires: What Hath God Wrought (What Hath God Wrought p. 1)
This new invention made long distance communication possible within minutes. All that was needed was for someone to type out a message using the telegraph. If this invention had been made 30 years earlier, the battle of New Orleans would never have happened. There was a peace treaty that was signed between the U.S. and Great Britain on December 24th, 1815 ending all hostilities. However sense communication travelled slowly in the form of a messenger on horseback or ship, no one knew of it till February 11th.
The First Transcontinental Rail Road was the next big advancement in communication and transportation during the period of 1863 to 1869. The reason why I include communication along with the advancement of the Transcontinental Railroad was that telegraph stations were constructed at each town where the train would stop. They would telegraph approximate arrival times to specific towns, news, and information about crop prices which could affect the cost of crops at neighboring towns.
We can see that the main forms of communication from the dawn of man up to the 19th Century had been in the form of a written letter with a messenger on horseback. Ships were used as well but not to the same degree. The technological advancement of the telegraph and the railroad brought on a whole new world of fast communication that would ultimately end up changing the world. These advancements would later become obsolete with future advancements that are commonly used today and do not need mentioning.