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: A brief history of electronic communication

A brief history of electronic communication

Communication is as old as humankind - and indeed as old as our evolutionary ancestors. 

Until the dawn of electronic communication, rapid communication was limited to the distance we could shout or see.

Communication at a distance was limited to the speed of a person, a horse or a boat (or a chain of beacons or visual semaphores).

Electronic communication has enabled us to communicate:

  • over much greater distances - even as far as space probes to the planets
  • quickly - electronic communication occurs at or close to the speed of light
  • large amounts of information
  • cheaply
  • with large numbers of people - most people in industrial countries have access to TV, radio, telephones etc.

This radical change in communication technology has been associated with profound changes in our lives - socially, for business and industry, our knowledge of the world and the ability of others to educate, persuade, inform, entertain and mislead us.


Because electronic communications systems often involve millions of separate ‘Sending’ and ‘Listening’ subsystems e.g. telephones, radios or TV sets they cannot be redesigned quickly. So, for example, the Morse telegraph led to the conventional telephone, which in turn led to the mobile telephone. The modern mobile telephone includes features that date back to the telegraph of more than 160 years ago. In fact it was only in 2000 that Morse Code ceased to be taught in wireless telegraphy courses.

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