Today we celebrate World Telecommunication and Information Society Day… not something you may think to get excited about, but we’ve put together a list of key dates in the history of all things telecoms to keep you entertained and to make you realise just how important some of these events were in creating the info-hungry world we now live in.
The Early Years
Early telecommunications included smoke signals and drums, with ‘talking drums’ being used by natives in Africa, New Guinea and South America, and smoke signals in North America and China.
During the Middle Ages, chains of beacons were commonly used atop hills as a means of relaying a message. Unfortunately, the humble beacon’s popularity waned due to the fact it could only convey a single bit of information (such as ‘the enemy has been sighted’), which had to be agreed upon in advance! Perhaps the most notable use of beacon messaging was during the Spanish Armada, when a beacon chain was successfully relayed from Plymouth to London warning of the arrival of warships.
Experimentation on communication with electricity began in 1726 and was initially unsuccessful, until the first working telegraph was built by Francis Ronalds in 1816 and used static electricity.
The Later Years
The telephone was invented in the 1870s, and in 1976 the first official telephone call was made by Alexander Graham Bell, and received by his assistant, Thomas Watson. The operation was repeated in 1915 with the first transcontinental call being made between the two.
Later that decade, Bell’s company allegedly conducted more than 4,000 measurements of people’s heads to best gauge the distance of standard headsets so the caller’s lips would be as close as possible to the telephone microphone when holding the handset to their ears!
Meanwhile, the British were successfully using carrier pigeons to relay messages back and forth during the First World War, so much so that the killing of a war pigeon became an offence in the country.
By the time World War II came around, pigeon fanciers the nation-over were donating their prize birds to the war effort to play the highly-prized position of carrier pigeon. In fact, in the aftermath of the Second World War, 32 pigeons were awarded the Dickin Medal for ‘delivering a message under exceptional difficulties.’
It was in 1973 that the first mobile phone call was made by Martin Cooper, a Motorola researcher. He placed the call to a rival telecoms company to inform them that he was, in fact, speaking from a mobile device! The phone Cooper used weighed a staggering 1.1kg and took around 10 hours to charge – for that, you could enjoy a maximum of 30 minutes talk time.
It wasn’t until 1983 that Motorola released its first commercial mobile, known as the Motorola DynaTAC 8000X… it cost a whopping £2639.
Fast forward another 10 years and we’ve got the very first smartphone, which was a far cry from the smartphones of today! The IBM ‘Simon’ had a touchscreen and was capable of accessing emails and sending faxes.
Since then, the mobile world has quite literally exploded with technology coming on in huge leaps and bounds. By the late nineties, mobile phones were commonplace, with the first WAP phone (capable of using the internet) being released by Nokia in 1999, the first camera phone being launched in Japan in 2000, and the legendary iPhone catapulting the mobile to fame in the present smartphone form in 2007.
With the rise of the internet and the smartphone, we’ve also seen alternative forms of communications in the way of social media, something teenagers now cannot seem to live without! The likes of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are now among the most common ways that young people interact with each other.
With new tech being released and reported on constantly, we wonder, what will telecoms look like in 50 years’ time?!