Telecommunications Advances

Today, telecommunications technology affects lives to a greater degree than ever
before. Communication has evolved over many years from the earliest attempts at
verbal communication to the use of sophisticated technology to enhance the
ability to communicate effectively with others. Every time a telephone call is
made, a television is watched, or a personal computer is used, benefits of
telecommunication technologies are being received. The concept of
telecommunications may be defined as the transmission of information from one
location to another by electronic means. Telecommunications is using electronic
systems to communicate. Life is changing constantly and has been changing faster
since the rapid advancements in telecommunication. Because of continuing
attempts to find better and more efficient ways to communicate, the process of
communication has steadily improved. Many of these improvements were made
without the use of electronic technology. Human beings’ earliest attempts at
communication were through nonverbal means such as facial expressions and
gesturing. The use of these nonverbal signs, prehistoric people were able to
communicate emotions such as fear, anger, and happiness. More specific motions,
such as pointing, allowed them to convey more information . Verbal communication
probably started with a series of disorganized but meaningful sounds (grunts and
snarls). These sounds slowly developed into a system of organized, spoken
language that truly allowed humans to share information (Croal 59). Writing,
which is the use of symbols to represent language, began with early cave
drawings, progressed to picture writings such as hieroglyphics, and finally
evolved into the handwritten language we use today (Croal 61). As civilization
developed, people found it necessary to communicate their ideas to one another
over greater distances. The earliest method of transporting information was to
carry it from place to place; but as the development of commerce made speed an
essential part, greater effort was expended to increase the rate at which ideas
were transmitted (Croal62). The search for rapid transport of information led to
the formation of the pony express in 1860 (Cozic 77). Although the pony express
required several weeks to carry mail from the East Coast to the West Coast, it
was a vast improvement over the earlier methods. The pony express was not the
only time humans teamed up with animals to attempt to improve communications.

Dogs and pigeons were used to carry messages, especially during wartime . Most,
if not all, of the early forms of communication had two significant problems.

Both the speed at which information could be effectively communicated and the
distance over which information could be sent were severely limited. With the
advancements in forms of electronic communication, these problems were solved.

It was even before the pony express that a true technological breakthrough was
made. In 1844, the first electronic transmission occurred when Samuel Morse
developed a system of dots and dashes to symbolize letters of the alphabet. A
transmission device called the telegraph was used to send the coded signals over
wires. The telegraph was to become the primary method of reliable and rapid
communication during the American Civil War . It took quite a few years to link
the major cities of America by telegraph wires, but by 1861 the pony express was
replaced . Telegraphic communication became a major part of America’s business
and military history. One of the early telegraph companies, Western Union,
became the dominant carrier. Today, Western Union, through the use of modern
technology, transmits information twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

Actual voice communication over distance finally became possible in 1876 when

Alexander Graham Bell held the first telephone conversation with his assistant,

Thomas Watson . This alternative to written communication rapidly helped the
telephone become the world’s most important communication tool. By 1866 the
first successful attempt to link Europe and America by undersea cable had been
accomplished. This cable was capable of carrying telegraph data only . The
telephone today remains a vital tool, and like the telegraph, the telephone is
constantly being improved by modern technology . By 1900, the goal of
communication technologists was to find a method of transmitting messages over
long distances without the need for wires. That dream became reality in 1901
when Gugliellmo Marconi and two assistants stood on a hill in Newfoundland and
listened carefully to their receiver. Faintly they heard the Morse code"dot-dot-dot," the letter s. the signal had traveled 1,700 miles from

Cornwall, England, and it represented the first successful wireless
transmission. This success led Marconi to form Marconi Wireless Telegraphy

Company. It was not until the Titanic disaster in 1912, however, that wireless
transmissions became commercially profitable. As the Titanic was sinking, the
ship’s radio operator transmitted distress signals over his wireless
telegraph. A passing ship, the Carpathia, which sped to the Titanic’s location
and rescued 700 of the 2,200 people aboard, picked up the signals. Shortly after
this disaster, most maritime nations required wireless telegraphs on all large
ships. The Marconi experiment eventually led to the development of the radio. On
an evening in November, 1920, radio station KDKA in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania,
went on the air with the first live radio broadcast. By 1922, 564 radio stations
were on the air. Today, thousands of radio stations broadcast our favorite
music, news, weather, and sports information . As important as it was, the
impact of the transmission of sounds by wire and by wireless methods seems
minor, when the effect of television, the device that permits the transmission
of both sounds and images. In 1926 J.L. Baird, working with the British

Broadcasting Company (BBC), became the first person to transmit a television
picture, and in 1936 the world’s first television service was introduced . By

1948, twenty television stations were on the air. The first color television
service began in the United States in 1954 . Sociologist James K. Martin
believes " The impact of television is legendary and has totally changed the
way American families live" . Modern telecommunications rely on modern
technology and one of the most important elements of that technology is the
computer. Today’s computer industry is moving with great momentum. Most
schools are equipped to teach computer skills, and it is no longer rare for a
student to come to first grade with a basic understanding of computers gained
from the family’s personal computer . In 1930 an American electrical
scientist, Vannevar Bush, constructed the first analog computer . However, the
person credited with developing the first digital computer is Howard Aiken of

Harvard University, who completed his project in 1944 . Analog signals are a
constant flow of information, whereas digital signals are a series of short
bursts of information. Historian Mark Halls says, "most historians point to

ENIAC (Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer) as the real beginning of
computer technology" . Engineers at the University of Pennsylvania built this
giant computer in 1946. ENIAC utilized vacuum tubes to control computer
functions. The concept of storing programs in a computers memory is credited to

John van Neumann, an American mathematician. It was in 1951 that the developers
of ENIAC constructed Univac I, which became the first computer to be
mass-produced . The traditional U.S. postal service is not oriented to meet
needs for instant information access, so many mailboxes have become electronic.

Electronic messages can be sent any hour of the day or night using a computer, a
modem, and a telephone. These electronic messages may be read, filed, stored,
erased, printed, and rerouted. A computer used in conjunction with the telephone
line and a television set allows homeowners to view merchandise, compare prices,
and do electronic shopping. No longer are bank customers dependent on bankers’
hours to withdraw money or to obtain account information . Many school libraries
have a new reference resource, an electronic encyclopedia. Libraries connect to
electronic encyclopedias with personal computers. Facts can be read on the
screen or sent to the printer. Through the use of telecommunications, the
opportunity to access vast amounts of information located in large commercial
data bases are beyond belief. Within a matter of seconds, a computer can access
information and can appear on its screen. Today, information services bring new
learning opportunities and data into the home through telecommunications ). The
information age has already arrived, and telecommunication technology has played
an important role in it. It has already had an impact on what have been
considered traditional methods of transmitting information over distances. This
new technology has also changed the methods by which information is manipulated
and stored. Telecommunications is changing the way people work, play, live and
think.