History of telecommunication

The history of telecommunication began with the use of smoke signals and drums in Africa, the Americas and parts of Asia. In the 1790s the first fixed semaphore systems emerged in Europe however it was not until the 1830s that electrical telecommunication systems started to appear. This article details the history of telecommunication and the individuals who helped make telecommunication systems what they are today.

History of telecommunication is an important part of the larger history of communication.

Early telecommunications

Early telecommunications included smoke signals and drums. Drums were used by natives in Africa, New Guinea and South America, and smoke signals in North America and China. Contrary to what one might think, these systems were often used to do more than merely announce the presence of a camp. [ [http://www.inquiry.net/outdoor/native/sign/smoke-signal.htm Native American Smoke Signals] , William Tomkins, 2005.] [ [http://www.si.umich.edu/chico/instrument/pages/tlkdrum_gnrl.html Talking Drums] , Instrument Encyclopedia, Cultural Heritage for Community Outreach, 1996.]

In 1792, a French engineer, Claude Chappe built the first visual telegraphy (or semaphore) system between Lille and Paris. This was followed by a line from Strasbourg to Paris. In 1794, a Swedish engineer, Abraham Edelcrantz built a quite different system from Stockholm to Drottningholm. As opposed to Chappe's system which involved pulleys rotating beams of wood, Edelcrantz's system relied only upon shutters and was therefore faster. [ [http://chappe.ec-lyon.fr/ Les Télégraphes Chappe] , Cédrick Chatenet, l'Ecole Centrale de Lyon, 2003.] However semaphore as a communication system suffered from the need for skilled operators and expensive towers often at intervals of only ten to thirty kilometres (six to nineteen miles). As a result, the last commercial line was abandoned in 1880. [ [http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&ct=res&cd=19&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.itu.int%2Fitudoc%2Fgs%2Fpromo%2Ftsb%2F88192.pdf&ei=WmQKRc6wEqL4ggP_6bHTDQ&sig=__RpZ0L0hbqjtzZfVWEAMZVhduDBw=&sig2=dzK2J3-3WNRc0o63DXwciQ#search=%22semaphore%201880%20Sweden%22 CCIT/ITU-T 50 Years of Excellence] , International Telecommunication Union, 2006.]

Telegraph and telephone

The first commercial electrical telegraph was constructed in England by Sir Charles Wheatstone and Sir William Fothergill Cooke. It used the deflection of needles to represent messages and started operating over twenty-one kilometres (thirteen miles) of the Great Western Railway on 9 April 1839. Both Wheatstone and Cooke viewed their device as "an improvement to the [existing] electromagnetic telegraph" not as a new device.

On the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, Samuel Morse independently developed a version of the electrical telegraph that he unsuccessfully demonstrated on 2 September 1837. Soon after he was joined by Alfred Vail who developed the register — a telegraph terminal that integrated a logging device for recording messages to paper tape. This was demonstrated successfully over three miles (five kilometres) on 6 January 1838 and eventually over forty miles (sixty-four kilometres) between Washington, DC and Baltimore on 24 May 1844. The patented invention proved lucrative and by 1851 telegraph lines in the United States spanned over 20,000 miles (32,000 kilometres). [ [http://www.du.edu/~jcalvert/tel/morse/morse.htm The Electromagnetic Telegraph] , J. B. Calvert, April 2000.]

The first successful transatlantic telegraph cable was completed on 27 July 1866, allowing transatlantic telecommunication for the first time. Earlier transatlantic cables installed in 1857 and 1858 only operated for a few days or weeks before they failed. [ [http://www.sil.si.edu/digitalcollections/hst/atlantic-cable/ The Atlantic Cable] , Bern Dibner, Burndy Library Inc., 1959]

The conventional telephone was invented by Alexander Bell in 1876. Antonio Meucci had in 1849 invented a device that allowed the electrical transmission of voice over a line but Meucci's device depended upon the electrophonic effect and was of little practical value because it required users to place the receiver in their mouth to “hear” what was being said. [ [http://chem.ch.huji.ac.il/~eugeniik/history/meucci.html Antonio Santi Giuseppe Meucci] , Eugenii Katz.]

The first commercial telephone services were set-up in 1878 and 1879 on both sides of the Atlantic in the cities of New Haven and London. Bell held patents needed for such services in both countries. The technology grew quickly from this point, with inter-city lines being built and telephone exchanges in every major city of the United States by the mid-1880s. [ [http://www.connected-earth.com/Galleries/Telecommunicationsage/Thetelephone/index.htm Connected Earth: The telephone] , BT, 2006.] [ [http://www.att.com/history/milestones.html History of AT&T] , AT&T, 2006.] Despite this, transatlantic voice communication remained impossible for customers until January 7 1927 when a connection was established using radio. However no cable connection existed until TAT-1 was inaugurated on September 25, 1956 providing 36 telephone circuits. [ [http://www.atlantic-cable.com/Cables/CableTimeLine/index1951.htm History of the Atlantic Cable & Submarine Telegraphy] , Bill Glover, 2006.]

Radio and television

In 1832, James Lindsay gave a classroom demonstration of wireless telegraphy to his students. By 1854 he was able to demonstrate a transmission across the Firth of Tay from Dundee to Woodhaven, a distance of two miles, using water as the transmission medium. [ [http://www.dundeecity.gov.uk/centlib/jbl/jblchron.htm James Bowman Lindsay] , Macdonald Black, Dundee City Council, 1999.]

Addressing the Franklin Institute in 1893, Nikola Tesla described and demonstrated in detail the principles of wireless telegraphy. The apparatus that he used contained all the elements that were incorporated into radio systems before the development of the vacuum tube. However it was not until 1900, that Reginald Fessenden was able to wirelessly transmit a human voice. In December 1901, Guglielmo Marconi established wireless communication between Britain and the United States earning him the Nobel Prize in physics in 1909 (which he shared with Karl Braun). [ [http://www.teslasociety.com/biography.htm Tesla Biography] , Ljubo Vujovic, Tesla Memorial Society of New York, 1998.]

On March 25, 1925, Scottish inventor John Logie Baird publicly demonstrated the transmission of moving silhouette pictures at the London department store Selfridges. In October 1925, Baird was successful in obtaining moving pictures with halftone shades, which were by most accounts the first true television pictures. [ [http://www.bairdtelevision.com The Baird Television Website] ] This led to a public demonstration of the improved device on 26 January, 1926 again at Selfridges. Baird's first devices relied upon the Nipkow disk and thus became known as the mechanical television. It formed the basis of semi-experimental broadcasts done by the British Broadcasting Corporation beginning September 30, 1929.

However for most of the twentieth century televisions depended upon the cathode ray tube invented by Karl Braun. The first version of such a television to show promise was produced by Philo Farnsworth and crude silhouette images were demonstrated to his family on September 7, 1927. Farnsworth's device would compete with the concurrent work of Kalman Tihanyi and Vladimir Zworykin. Zworykin's camera, based on Tihanyi's Radioskop, which later would be known as the Iconoscope, had the backing of the influential Radio Corporation of America (RCA). In the United States, court action between Farnsworth and RCA would resolve in Farnsworth's favour.. [ [http://www.time.com/time/time100/scientist/profile/farnsworth.html Philo Farnsworth] , Neil Postman, TIME Magazine, 29 March 1999] John Logie Baird switched from mechanical television and became a pioneer of colour television using cathode-ray tubes. [ [http://www.bairdtelevision.com The Baird Television Website] ]

After mid-century the spread of coaxial cable and microwave radio relay allowed television networks to spread across even large countries.

Computer networks and the Internet

On September 11, 1940 George Stibitz was able to transmit problems using teletype to his Complex Number Calculator in New York and receive the computed results back at Dartmouth College in New Hampshire. [ [http://www.kerryr.net/pioneers/stibitz.htm George Stlibetz] , Kerry Redshaw, 1996.] This configuration of a centralized computer or mainframe with remote dumb terminals remained popular throughout the 1950s. However it was not until the 1960s that researchers started to investigate packet switching — a technology that would allow chunks of data to be sent to different computers without first passing through a centralized mainframe. A four-node network emerged on December 5, 1969 between the University of California, Los Angeles, the Stanford Research Institute, the University of Utah and the University of California, Santa Barbara. This network would become ARPANET, which by 1981 would consist of 213 nodes. [cite book | last = Hafner | first = Katie | title = Where Wizards Stay Up Late: The Origins Of The Internet | publisher = Simon & Schuster | year = 1998 | id = ISBN 0-684-83267-4 ] In June 1973, the first non-US node was added to the network belonging to Norway's NORSAR project. This was shortly followed by a node in London. [ [http://www.norsar.no/NORSAR/history/internet.html NORSAR and the Internet: Together since 1973] , NORSAR, 2006.]

ARPANET's development centred around the Request for Comment process and on April 7, 1969, RFC 1 was published. This process is important because ARPANET would eventually merge with other networks to form the Internet and many of the protocols the Internet relies upon today were specified through this process. In September 1981, RFC 791 introduced the Internet Protocol v4 (IPv4) and RFC 793 introduced the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) — thus creating the TCP/IP protocol that much of the Internet relies upon today. A more relaxed transport protocol that, unlike TCP, did not guarantee the orderly delivery of packets called the User Datagram Protocol (UDP) was submitted on 28 August, 1980 as RFC 768. An e-mail protocol, SMTP, was introduced in August 1982 by RFC 821 and HTTP/1.0 a protocol that would make the hyperlinked Internet possible was introduced on May 1996 by RFC 1945.

However not all important developments were made through the Request for Comment process. Two popular link protocols for local area networks (LANs) also appeared in the 1970s. A patent for the Token Ring protocol was filed by Olof Soderblom on October 29, 1974. [ [http://patft1.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=1&f=G&l=50&co1=AND&d=PTXT&s1=4293948.PN.&OS=PN/4293948&RS=PN/4293948 Data transmission system] , Olof Solderblom, PN 4,293,948, October 1974.] And a paper on the Ethernet protocol was published by Robert Metcalfe and David Boggs in the July 1976 issue of "Communications of the ACM". [ [http://www.acm.org/classics/apr96/ Ethernet: Distributed Packet Switching for Local Computer Networks] , Robert M. Metcalfe and David R. Boggs, Communications of the ACM (pp 395—404, Vol. 19, No. 5), July 1976.]

See also

* History of the Internet
* History of radio
* History of television
* History of the telephone



External links

* [http://www.itu.int International Telecommunication Union]
* [http://www.aronsson.se/hist.html Aronsson's Telecom History Timeline]

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