History and Evolution of Communication Technology

Communication is not only the essence of being human, but also a vital property of life… 

John A. Piece 


Communication is the activity of conveying meaningful information. Communication requires a sender, a message, and an intended recipient, although the receiver need not be present or aware of the sender's intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast distances in time and space. Communication requires that the communicating parties share an area of communicative commonality. The communication process is complete once the receiver has understood the sender.


Humans have relied on communication from time immemorial to relay messages to one another. Nowadays, we use complex technology to send important information to our loved ones, friends and business associates. However, the technologies we use today did not always exist. Human beings have relied on various methods to communicate with each other. These methods have depended on the progress science had made at that time.


Body Language: A friendly handshake, a gracious smile or even a warm hug. Body language is communication through simple body gestures. The time of emergence of body language cannot be precisely or accurately calculated or calculated. However the use of body language as means of communication has always been compared to communication modes used by animals.

Speech: The available fossil evidence hints that modern adaptations for speech appeared somewhere between 1.5 million and 500,000 years ago. The dynamics of evolution of speech acquisition is complex since it is influenced by factors like culturally transmitted sounds and genetic evolution.

Writing: The history of writing dates back to the various writing systems that evolved in the Early Bronze Age (late 4th millennium BC) out of Neolithic proto-writing. The evolution of writing is said to have evolved from proto-writing which means pictorial messages /symbols/scribbles that cannot be called "actual –writing".. Writing has been used from the time of the Mayans and Egyptians. The oldest record of writing is some 5000 years old. Writing in the early days was used to mark down the major events of history. It was also used inside temples and burial chambers of kings and other important rulers to state who and what took place during the relevant time period. Visual communication also goes hand in hand with writing. For convenience we will classify the evolution of writing into the following sub-categories:


1. Symbols

2. Cave Paintings

3. Petroglyphs/ Rock Carvings

4. Pictograms

5. Ideograms

6. Writing


Symbols: Symbols developed as a communication tool that not only ensures better understanding but also increased longevity of the message.

Cave Paintings: The first paintings found were drawn more that 5000 years ago, well before words were written down. Paintings was used in the past like writing, to preserve the memory of some one or some event so that future generations may come to know of the might, majesty and power of the rulers and past civilizations.

The Upper Paleolithic cave paintings, which are a type of rock art are the oldest known symbols. Homo sapiens' first crack at communicating information was painting. The oldest known cave painting is that of the Chauvet Cave dating back to 30,000 BC.

Petroglyphs: Petroglyphs are nothing but rock carvings. These Petroglyphs date back to 10,000 BC, when the Homo-sapiens have been known to have acquired the art of carving by making incisions or carvings on the rock surface. There have been instances of woodcarvings and even tattoos.

Pictograms: Pictographs were the next step in the evolution of writing. One prominent feature that separates petroglyphs from the pictograms is that petroglyphs simply depict a single event, but pictograms narrate a story about the event and hence can be used to convey chronology of several events. Pictograms have been sighted in the history of various ancient cultures since around 9000 BC. The pictograms gave way to the evolution of Cuneiform script, which is considered as the earliest known form of written expression.

Ideogram: An ideogram is an advanced version of the pictogram. It is a visual or graphic symbol that represents an idea. Several communities across the world came up with varied ideograms to represent numerous ideas however, since ideas like expression of emotions are universal in nature, so are many ideograms. Ideograms are the source of inception for most of the logographic writing systems like the Chinese script.

The invention of the first writing systems is supposed to be synonymous with the beginning of the Bronze Age in the late Neolithic of the late 4th millennium BC. The first writing system was supposedly invented in the Sumerian regime during the 20th or 21st century BC, by the late 3rd millennium developing into the archaic cuneiform script.


The development of Egyptian hieroglyphs is also analogous to that of the Mesopotamian scripts. The Egyptian proto-hieroglyphic symbol system developed into archaic hieroglyphs by 3200 BC and more widespread literacy by the mid third millennium, which was the time of the Pyramid Texts. The Indus script developed over the third millennium, either as a form of proto-writing, or an archaic mode of writing. The Chinese script is said to have originated independently around the 16th century BC.

Other than these methods of communication there were other methods used to signal and communicate with in a distance. Our ancestors developed systems for sending simple messages or signals over a distance through drumbeats, fire or smoke signals, lanterns, birds and arrows. Birds carried messages through a long distance. The message was attached to a foot of a Pigeon or a Falcon who flew home with the message. This specific method of communication was used to a great extent during World War I.

The Semaphore system of flags or flashing lights was used to send messages over a moderate distance where traveling was difficult. In the early 1790s the French scientist and engineer Claude Chappe persuaded the French government to install a system of towers that used semaphore signals to send visual telegraphs along approved routes throughout the country. The system was copied in Great Britain and the United States.

The Alphabets: The Egyptians were the first to come up with an alphabetical system around 2700 BC which consisted of 22 heiroglyphs. Each heiroglyph began with a single consonant of their language, plus a vowel (or no vowel) to be supplied by the speaker. Initially, these glyphs were used as a guide for pronunciation of the logograms, to mark grammatical intonation and to record foreign names. This script passed on to many other civilizations and inspired different alphabetical systems like the Phoenician alphabets, Arabic scripts, Hebrew, Latin alphabets, Italic alphabets, Glagolithic alphabets or the Cyrillic alphabets.

Tele-communication: The Semaphore or the optical telegraph system was an apparatus for conveying information by means of visual signals. The system used towers with pivoting blades or paddles, in a matrix. Information was encoded by the position of the mechanical elements and the message can be interpreted by the position of the blade. Although the mention of the idea of a semaphore has been recorded in the name of an English scientist Robert Hooke, the idea was put to practice in France during the 1700s, when an engineer called Claude Chappe covered France with a network of 556 stations over a distance of 4,800 kilometers.

Other Benchmarks in the History of Communication: 

Invention of the Radio: Although the construction of the radio is based o Michael Faraday’s laws of electromagnetic induction, which Faraday proposed in 1831, it was William Henry Ward, who implemented the principles and successfully got himself a patent for radio development in 1872.


Electronic communication is what expanded the horizons of communication and really boosted the communication industry. This path was shown to us by the founder of the telephone "Alexander Graham Bell." The telephone was the first step towards all the modern methods of communication such as telephone calls, electronic mail or e-mail, satellite broadcasting, cable television and the internet. The internet has become the number one source of information and communication through out the world. You can see what is happening while it's happening. The internet is linked to almost every major organization, business and government.

Invention of the Telephone: Although there were several disputes surrounding the claim to the invention of the telephone. Although the Italian scientist Antonio Meucci , was acknowledged by US Congress on 11th June 2002 for his contributions to the invention of the telephone, it is Alexander Graham Bell who patented the telephone asapparatus for transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically.


Invention of the Television: The answer is highly debated, although it is known that a Scottish inventor, John Logie Baird, was the first one to publicly demonstrate television on 26 January 1926, in his laboratory at Sohodistrict of London. However it was an American engineer Philo Farnsworth who researched the television picture transmission and developed the dissector tube, which is the basic element of all current electronic televisions. In 1927, Philo Farnsworth became the first inventor to transmit a television image.

Invention of the first Computer: The first computer was called ENIAC, which is an abbreviation for Electronic Numerical Integrator And Computer and was completely developed in 1945 at the Iowa State University. In the 1940-1950's one single computer filled an entire room and weighed about 30 tons. In the 50's and 60's the computers were smaller and faster, but still too big and expensive for home use. In the 1970's smaller computers were designed for smaller businesses and the microprocessors were introduced. They were now small enough for use in homes and schools. We still use computers with microprocessors and they keep getting smaller and smaller in size and price. 

Invention of the Internet: The design of the Internet was formulated in 1973 and published in 1974. It took as many as ten years to bring the idea into reality and the Internet was set up in 1983. Not many people know that the concept of Internet was developed by an American computer scientist Vinton Cerf, as part of a project sponsored by the United States Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. In the 1990s, the whole world started to change more drastically technological wise and the Internet began to affect people. The number of end systems connected to the Internet reached one million. One of the most important events that happened in the 1990s was the invention of the World Wide Web (WWW). Statistics predict that by the year 2010, about 80 percent of the world is connected to the Internet.


One of the major advances in this type of technology is that things are becoming clearer. The first televisions had a grainy, black and white picture that we would barely be able to watch today.  The first telephones were next to impossible to have long-distance conversations on, and even the first Internet connections were cumbersome and couldn't transmit a lot of clarity. Now, though, we're in the era of high-definition televisions where you can see a football game as if you're sitting in the stands. We can talk to someone on the other side of the world as if they're sitting in the same room. 4G Internet technology has allowed us to transmit crystal clear sounds and pictures through a few cords and a screen.


Another of the evolutionary processes in communication technology has been speed. Now, we can download information at the speed of light, practically, with 4G Internet technology. We can dial up a long-distancetelephone number in a matter of seconds, and we can get new programs on our computer through our phone lines. Everything is getting faster, and new technological advances are coming on quicker than ever. Wireless technologies cant be overlooked in this aspect. In telecommunications, wireless communication may be used to transfer information over short distances (a few meters as in television remote control) or long distances (thousands or millions of kilometers for radio communications). The term is often shortened to "wireless". The precursor to Wi-Fi was invented in 1991 by NCR Corporation/AT&T (later Lucent & Agere Systems) in Nieuwegein, the Netherlands. It was initially intended for cashier systems; the first wireless products were brought on the market under the name WaveLAN with speeds of 1 Mbit/s to 2 Mbit/s. Vic Hayes, who was the primary inventor of Wi-Fi and has been named the 'father of Wi-Fi,' was involved in designing standards such as IEEE 802.11b, 802.11a and 802.11g. In 2003, Vic retired from Agere Systems. Agere Systems suffered from strong competition in the market even though their products were high quality, as many opted for cheaper Wi-Fi solutions. Agere's 802.11a/b/g all-in-one chipset (code named: WARP) never made it to market, and Agere Systems decided to quit the Wi-Fi market in late 2004.


It encompasses various types of fixed, mobile, and portable two-way radios, cellular telephones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and wireless networking. Other examples of wireless technology include GPS units, garage door openers and or garage doors, wireless computer mice, keyboards and headsets, satellite television and cordless telephones.


Wireless operations permits services, such as long range communications, that are impossible or impractical to implement with the use of wires. The term is commonly used in the telecommunications industry to refer to telecommunications systems (e.g. radio transmitters and receivers, remote controls, computer networks, network terminals, etc.) which use some form of energy (e.g. radio frequency (RF), infrared light, laser light, visible light, acoustic energy, etc.) to transfer information without the use of wires. Information is transferred in this manner over both short and long distances


One thing that many people don't realize in this onrush of new ideas, concepts, and creations is that it usually takes a decade or more to make the new things happen. Because every year so many new technologies arrive around the same time, we're left thinking that things take six months or less to fully develop. In fact, this couldn't be further from the truth. In all actuality, lots and lots of planning and preparation goes into nearly every technological breakthrough. Only once in a while is an advance something simple that comes from seemingly nowhere.


In the case of the popular new 4G Internet technology, it would seem that this technology sprang up quickly out of 3G advances. Actually, 4G thoughts started about eight years ago in 2002, when an international collective of technology companies set forth goals for the new technology. Since then, advances have come slowly, and 4G connections have moved from advanced 3G – sometimes known as 3.5G – to WiMax to today's true fourth generation technology.


Chances are likely that the technology companies already have goals in mind for fifth generation technology, even before they've got the fourth generation on the market. Technological advances don't happen overnight. In fact, companies just spend decades planning them out. Then, when new things are released, they seem as if they have just been invented and given to the public fully formed.


All these methods of communication have evolved and today it is impossible to imagine a world without it. House holds, businesses, organizations and entire countries depend upon the level of communication. Miss-communication can cause catastrophic outcomes especially when it comes to global marketing, finance, economics, trade and war. Today communication has reached a multi-sensory level where any and every thing is possible. The simple act of exchanging ideas has become one of the most important parts of human life.




1. The History of Communication Media. Friedrich Kittler.

2. The History of Communications: From Cave Drawings to Mail Messages. Prakash Chakravarthi.

3. The History of Writing.

4. The History Guide: The Printing Pres.

5. Jay, Michael. History of Communications (Science Discovery). Thompson Learning, 1995

6. Delf, Brian. In the Beginning...The Nearly Complete History of Almost Everything. London, England. Dorling Kindersley Limited, 1995

7. Sending Messages. Needham, Massachusettes. Schoolhouse Press, Inc. 1988

8. Spreading the news : the American postal system from Franklin to Morse. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UniversityPress.

9. Steven Lubar. (1993). InfoCulture. New York: Houston Miflin Company.




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