History of Communications

As long as there has been man, there has been some form of communication. Communication can range from a very limited exchange of information to communication for the masses. The advent of speech revolutionized years ago. Symbols were developed about 30,000 years ago, and writing about 7,000 years ago.

Speech transmits information and knowledge to not just those listening, but to future generations as well. Oral rhetoric allows man to adapt to new environments—or adapt the environment to them. Technological progress and the development of complex, abstract concepts such as science and religion put humans at the top of the food chain.

It turns out that speech is not perfect. The human voice carries only so far. Further, oral communication relies on human memory, another flawed tool: Memory can be corrupted or lost over time, and there is a limit to how much one can remember. In olden times, with the accidental death of a tribal elder a pre-literate tribe could lose generations of knowledge.

The oldest known symbols created for communication are cave paintings. Just as a child first learns to draw before mastering more multifaceted forms of communication, so began Homo sapiens' first attempt at preserving information in the form of painting. The oldest known painting, from around 30,000 B.C., is at the Chauvet Cave.

It is conceivable that the humans of the time used some other methods of communication as well—specially arranged stones, tattoos, symbols carved in wood; however, because few examples survived, this speculation is based largely on our observation of existing “hunter-gatherer” cultures.
In the earliest of timelines, petroglyphs and pictograms—drawings or carvings on a rock surface—appear next. Pictograms evolved into ideograms, graphical symbols that represent an idea. For example, an ideogram of two sticks can mean not only “legs” but also “to walk.” Ideograms were the precursors to Chinese characters and Egyptian hieroglyphs.

The invention of the first writing systems began during the Bronze Age. Writing began with a system of clay tokens used to represent goods or commodities. Essentially, it was a method of recording numbers and keeping records using a round-shaped stylus impressed into soft clay at different angles. Gradually, pictographic writing was used, with the first pure alphabets emerging around 2000 B.C. in ancient Egypt.

Over the next five centuries this "alphabet" seems to have spread. All subsequent alphabets, with the single exception of Korean Hangul, have either descended from it or have been inspired by one of its descendants.

A short primer on firsts in communication:

2000 B.C. The Phoenician Alphabet is developed
1638 The first printing press in America
1831 The first telegraph
1840 The first fax machine
1845 The keyboard is invented
1876 First telephone message: “Mr. Watson, come here. I want to see you.”
1906 First radio broadcast
1928 First television broadcast
1939 First Silicon Valley garage start-up, Hewlett-Packard, is founded
1941 First FM radio broadcast
1951 First telephone answering machine
1951 First commercial television sets are sold
1954 First pocket radio is available—it costs $49.95
1972 PONG is an overnight sensation
1977 Apple computer is founded
1979 Sony introduces the Walkman
1983 The first music CD player is sold

Last Updated: 08/20/2013

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