Communication Trends: Telegraphs to Smartphones
Communication Trends: Telegraphs to Smartphones

Sep 11, 2019

In ancient times, information was transmitted across long distances via drum beats or smoke signals; however, these methods were limited by the weather and the ability to see receptor points. In the early 1790s, the semaphore, a modern precursor to the electric telegraph, was developed. This solution consisted of a series of hilltop stations that used arms to signal letters and numbers and two telescopes to see the other stations. Facing similar issues as previous methods, a different mode of transmitting data was needed for long-distance communication.

In the 1830s, a new form of communications originated with the telegraph, a simple circuit that transmits electrical impulses across a country via the wire. It produced two signals, known as Morse code, that could be interpreted as words and eventually translated into all languages. This technological breakthrough permitted coast-to-coast data transmissions and formed the basis for fax transmissions, which are still used today. Telegraph usage faded as radio became easy to use and popularized. [1

Radio development began as wireless telegraphy in the late 19th century. It started with inventing technology that produces and uses radio instruments that use radio waves. Inventors from all over the world contributed to the creation and development of the radio. Early theories about radio were proven by later experiments and became a reality when devices were produced. As the public became more interested, radio became an organized profit-making industry. Technology continued to develop, and the radio was improved.

Introducing Telephones

The telephone was the next major communications invention, which was created in the early 19th century. Alexander Gram Bell originally patented it in 1876; however, it was actually created by an Italian innovator Antonio Meucci in 1849. The first telephone line was constructed in 1877, the first switchboard was created, and the first telephone exchange was in operation. Three years later, almost 49K telephones were in use. By 1948, 30M phones were connected in the United States. [1

The idea of sending messages via radio waves wasn’t common until such transmissions were possible. Wireless transmissions eventually became the main medium since wires often break and become disconnected. This technology evolved from simple messages with a range of only a few miles to our current cell phones. In 1993, the first digital cellular network went online in Florida; by 1995, there were 25M cellular phone subscribers, and that number exploded at the turn of the century. [2]

Evolution of Smart Devices

  • IBM Simon Communicator: In 1992, IBM revealed a revolutionary device called the Simon Personal Communicator, which had more capabilities than cell phones. Two years later, this prototype smartphone made its way to consumers, and it had many of the same elements as current mobile devices, such as having a touchscreen and email access. However, it was priced at $1,100, and IBM only sold 50K units in 6 months.
  • Blackberry Mobile Device: The BlackBerry 5810 was the first mobile device equipped with a keyboard, security, and Internet access. However, users had to make calls through a headset. New versions were released, and Blackberry became the market leader in smartphones, especially for business people, until the Apple iPhones became popular. 
  • Apple Smartphones: Apple became a leader in designing portable devices. They launched the iPod in 2001 and the iPhone in 2007. During its first year on the market, Apple sold 1.4M iPhones, and 11.6M were sold in 2008. The iPhone was one of the most advanced consumer smartphones, and its extended battery life allowed for 8 hours of talk time. The iPhone’s hardware was impressive, but the software, especially the apps, expanded the iPhone’s capabilities. [3]

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