How Communication Technologies Evolved Over Time




Can you spend a week without Facebook? You would take a long time to decide, right? But, it’s not only you. Except for some extra ordinaries, social networks have rooted the veins of those who have access to it. Through social networks, we can connect with individuals from around the globe. Social networking is a billion dollar industry today and is gaining potential with time. Social networks are the most powerful tools for marketing and research the world has ever seen. It brought a revolution and improved the pace, scale, and cost of communication. Let’s rewind back to the time of posts and hand-to-hand correspondence.

Historically, pigeons were used for exchanging messages. The earliest form of communication is the postal service, which dates back to 550 B.C. But, major changes in the field started only after the eighteenth century. Telegraphs and pneumatic post were the most primitive forms. A major breakthrough happened after two important discoveries: the telephone in 1890 and the radio in 1891.Telephones and radios made it possible to communicate across great distances instantaneously, something that mankind had never experienced before. The early years of the twentieth century were an important period for technology rise. By the mid-twenties, supercomputers evolved and computing was becoming an attractive field for scientists, researchers, engineers and businessmen. The evolution of computers gave the scientists and engineers the idea to create a linkage between those computers. During the 1960s, the earliest forms of the networks appeared and, by the 1970s, networking technology had improved. The web of computer networks began to expand, which lead to the evolution of the internet.

By the same time, the subscriber trunk dialing service was introduced, allowing people to directly dial long-distance areas, which replaced the previous system whereby the phone user would dial to the network operator and the operator would then make the call. On the other hand, the popularity of radio grew as the numbers of radio stations increased; radio sets became cheaper and more readily available. Car companies also introduced radios in 1963. The radios were mostly used as a digital news portal, and were popular among youths for sports game coverage and musical programs. By the mid-1960s, television had also emerged as the most popular form of communication. The new technology brought the moving picture into people’s homes and transformed the way the people received information. It soon became a popular form of mass communication, taking over from radio and cinema and posing a challenge to postal services and print media. It emerged as an information sharing platform as it started reaching out to their local communities through call-in requests, sweepstakes and talent contests. The discovery of the portable transistor avoided the radio business from stepping down. Although the sound quality was lower, the transistor made the radios portable and could be carried out of home. It was also the decade of the 1960s when the global communication became revolutionized by satellite technology. Satellites were used as a hybrid-bridge for information exchanges and had a huge coverage. This changed even the ways television and telephone worked and presented an opportunity for the world to get connected under a global network. This change also helped science and explorations upgrade to the next level; modern science and space explorations were the hottest subject at that time.

By that time, there also had happened a revolution in the digital world, and personal computers were becoming common in 1980s. And then, internet relay chats evolved. In the late 1980s, mobile phones were commercially available, although the models were heavy, large, costly and had elementary features only. Mobile phones soon became smaller and cheaper as their development evolved rapidly. Mobile phones brought a new era of two way communication that allowed freedom of movement and drastically changed the way of communication. Email, which showed up in the 70s, became an important and easy method of communication. Businesses and organizations started using emails, which was very effective against traditional systems, as the primary source of communication. Email played a great role in attracting people towards the internet. Although various efficient, cheap and easy methods of communication had been revealed, the socially isolated people who had no access to either of them had been threatened by the progress in the field of communication. A technology gap appeared across various part of the world, however, the need of communication technology was understood and every nation started setting up infrastructures for communication. In a very short time, the global network of communication expanded through almost all of the countries.

Throughout the 1990s, the field of communication was revolutionized with fiber optics and modern technology. With a system that could carry an enormous data almost at around the speed of light, television broadcasts, long-distance calls, and the internet became faster and efficient. The communication technology had become so advanced that people could be contacted anytime and anywhere and the connections were maintained through phone conversations and text messaging. Billions of users joined the global communication network and boundary between activities blurred. People started to utilize the communication networks for information, entertainment, education and business. It became additive to coffee cups while enjoying leisure time. Youngsters were highly attracted by the emerging technology and the field of technology itself became famous. A large number of young students were attracted to technical fields and many universities around the globe adopted technical courses that would generate professionals who would fulfill the skilled manpower demand in the next century. Youths were the ones who utilized the emerging networks and shaped the beautiful future of communication. The iconic technology at that time was the web of computer networks- internet and its reach were growing with time. The invention of the Internet gave a new face to social media. The blogging trend, which would later create the base for information sources, was at its intermediate development stage at the very end of 1990s.

The beginning of the twenty-first century marked the genesis of the golden era for the modern communication technology. Telephone, radio and television, movies, modern publishing, emails and internet were dominant since the beginning and almost every nation across the globe had access to them. The number of global users who had access to the modern methods of communication increased exponentially and there was a wave of modernization throughout the world. Business firms and organizations used the internet as a platform for mass communication and started the trend of creating web pages. Internet was soon enriched with a lot of information and the bloggers contributed a lot. In a very short period of time, internet gained popularity as an information repository. Free publishing, immediate information, increasing acquaintance with two-way communication over the internet led to the foundation of e-commerce and instant group communications.

The computer networking was gaining potential with time and could provide a base for the modern forms of online communication including VOIP calls and social networking sites. The craze towards social networking sites increased drastically with the innovation of the ‘user profile’ feature. These sites provided a platform for users to find and communicate with friends and other users across the globe with similar interests. These networks spread like a forest fire and then popularity led the developers to develop more advanced systems for social networking. Soon, the modern generation of social networking sites emerged and joined the mainstream internet. At the same time, there was a rapid progress in the instant messaging, video streaming, voice and video call services. These services were very cheaper and easier for the end-users to interact through. Very soon, the young generations started being familiar with computer technology and started a trend in computing education.

Along with the exploration of developing even more portable communication technology, mobile phones with internet connectivity appeared in the market. Although the technology was not viable at that moment, the mobile operators were soon attracted to develop a system able to comply with the modern technology, looking for efficiency and a brighter future. Many operators started the mobile phone Internet services and immediately received a large volume of subscriptions. At the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century, smartphones appeared, which was termed as a “revolutionary and magical product.” The majority of the internet users started using smartphones to access the internet, rather than a computer. Another improvement in internet occurred along with the introduction of Web 2.0, which emphasized user collaborations and interactions as the creators of contents generated through the contributions of users in a virtual community. Examples of Web 2.0 are the virtual communities built up by the user-generated contents including blogs, wikis, video sharing sites, social networking sites, folksonomies, hosted services, mashups and Web applications. Web 2.0 used highly advanced frameworks to improve user experiences and add dynamicity to the web pages.

Most of the initial developers released their work free for all as an ‘open-source’, which attracted a large number of contributors, which in turn resulted in the rapid development of the modern means of communication. On the other hand, the pioneers who commercialized the technology became billionaires overnight. Therefore, from the time of pigeons and hand-to-hand exchanges to the modern means, humanity has been through a lot of changes. Alexander Graham Bell never imagined that his first successful experiment with the wired telephone would be transformed into an amazing technology that would interconnect the whole world. But, that’s not all, there is a lot more to be done. The world should never stop dreaming.

Sushant Gautam

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Sushant Gautam

Mostly writes on growing tech trends, events, and future of technologies. He has a keen interest in tech entrepreneurial infrastructures and startup ecosystem of Nepal. He believes in using latest technologies in problem-solving and regularly patrols the progress in solving SDGs in developing countries. He is also a licenced amateur radio operator and ETC volunteer for disaster communication .

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