Smoke Signals, Scribbles, Papyrus and Scrolls

We, humans, learnt to speak somewhere between 40,000 and 100,000 years ago and writing almost certainly came soon after. There is, of course, much uncer­tainty about this exact timeline but one thing we can be certain of, as a social species we have an overrid­ing need to commu­nic­ate with our fellow people, and it is possibly related to tool usage, pack hunting, or perhaps the need to tell the story. Just how that commu­nic­a­tion evolved from the clicks, screeches, and howls of the animal kingdom may also be uncer­tain but the why would have been driven by the need to work togeth­er.

Written records are known to have existed as early as 6,000 years ago in the Mediterranean, Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, and Mesoamerica and many were account­ing records but they are in many ways the precurs­or to how we write today, albeit via much change and exper­i­ment­a­tion has occurred with letter forms, punctu­ation etc.

Egyptian hyrogliphic writing by Wiki Images CC0Public Domain PixabayCommunication via smoke signals, hoots, bird calls, whistles etc. were likely to have been developed a long time, but they have limited use, inten­ded as a way of signalling basic inform­a­tion like danger, or all clear, but these devices could not help people commu­nic­ate over long distances, nor keep a perman­ent record. In China, they wrote on “bamboo strips and wooden tablets were employed as writing mater­i­als, followed by silk fabrics” and were known to have made bamboo books. All this happened about the same time Mesopotamians and Egyptians used papyr­us. Clay tablets, bark, leaves, and other mater­i­als were used in the place of paper, and the Egyptians are well known to have written on stone as a perman­ent means of record­ing history making use of hiero­glyphs.

Paper was believed to have been created by the Chinese in the first or second century AD and has found its way to Europe by the 10th or 11th century. The modern print­ing press was inven­ted in 1440  and under­went sever­al enhance­ments over its lifetime includ­ing movable type, litho­graphy, and most recently digit­ised print­ing. The print­ing press pave the route for the print­ing of books and the creation of the Newspaper in 1605 “Relation aller Fürnemmen und gedenck­wür­di­gen Historien” published in Strasbourg, the first in English being “Berrow’s Worcester Journal” from 1690 which claims to be the world’s oldest surviv­ing public­a­tion with weekly editions that contin­ue today.

In the UK a new Post Office was intro­duced in 1842 which sought to improve the efficiency of deliv­er­ing letters with a stand­ard postage cost for all items delivered, giving us the postage stamp, used as a method of showing that postage had been paid.

At this point, the story of commu­nic­a­tions becomes multi-threaded with a myriad of new devel­op­ments that all impact being that we see, hear, and read things today. Effective commu­nic­a­tions were essen­tial for coloni­al European nations that required ways to spend messages speedily and effect­ively. The commu­nic­a­tions related inven­tions included:

  • Smith Premier Virtical by Iynnea CC0 Public Domain Pixabay1744 the mail order catalogue
  • 1761 the glass harmon­ica or glass harmon­ica, a music­al instru­ment created by Benjamin Franklin.
  • 1795 the Wheel Cipher used for encrypt­ing messages
  • 1810 Frederick Koenig Improves the print­ing press
  • 1814 The first photo­graph
  • 1821 Charles Babbage invents the Difference Engine, the world’s first calcu­lat­ing machine.
  • 1825 William Sturgeon creates the Electromagnet
  • 1827 the Microphone
  • 1829 Typewriter
  • Louis Braille inven­ted print­ing for the blind in 1829
  • 1834 Babbage Analytical Engine, the first program­mable computer
  • 1837 Telegraph based on Morse code, created in 1836, as a means of commu­nic­at­ing effect­ively by telegraph.
  • The circuit break­er, created in 1836 to protect electric circuits from damage
  • 1843, the rotary print­ing press revolu­tion­ising the print­ing industry again.
  • 1843 Facsimile
  • 1846 the Printing Telegraph
  • 1854 Fiber-optics
  • 1858 Pencil eraser
  • Pony Express by 1860 spurred on by the need for faster commu­nic­a­tion with the West
  • 1861 the Post Card
  • 1866 the continu­ous feed rotary print­ing press
  • 1867 the paper clip
  • 1874 the Quadruplex telegraph to send four signals in a single wire
  • 1874 The QWERTY keyboard
  • 1875 Mimeograph for stencil print­ing
  • 1875 Telephone
  • 1877 the Gramophone
  • 1884 Eastman invents paper-strip photo­graph­ic film
  • 1884 Waterman’s fountain pen
  • 1886 the Telephone Directory
  • 1888 the Ballpoint pen
  • 1891 Radio
  • 1895 Motion picture cinema­to­graphy by the Lumiere Brothers
  • 1897 Cathode Ray Tube.

This is an impress­ive list of inven­tions that occurred during the course of the 19th century, most of which acted as the found­a­tions for modern advance­ments in commu­nic­a­tions. Of course, there may be commu­nic­a­tions inven­tions that I have missed in this list but the point is that this should show how import­ant commu­nic­a­tions are to the human race. The telephone, radio, photo­graph and the ability to send messages of increas­ing complex­ity over vast distances have driven change during the twenti­eth century with the computer encom­passing any of these and later inven­tions, especially the creation of the Internet during the 1960s and each leap has in turn created new commu­nic­a­tions oppor­tun­it­ies for us and today we hardly think about it when chatting to a person on the oppos­ite side of the planet. The future may hold many new advances in commu­nic­a­tions, some easily perceived, such as colour fonts for emphas­is but others are simply await­ing inven­tion.

This is an extract of part part of Peter Giblett’s Book “Is your Business Ready for the Social Media Revolution?” which is avail­able on Amazon.



Buy Peter B. Giblett a coffee as a thank you for provid­ing this inform­a­tion.





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