Being able to communicate over great distances has long been a focus for humans. However, throughout much of history, this was not possible through telecommunication, which is the transmission of information through electronic means such as over cable, radio or wire connections. Prior to those types of things being invented, people had to rely on more basic forms of communication, including using runners, horses, pigeons, drums, horns and smoke signals.
Early Telecommunications History
By accident, Robert Hooke invents the telephone. He was looking to create a device to make music and discovered that sound could travel along a string or water. He most likely did not realize the magnitude of the implications of what he had discovered.
Telecommunications History in the 1800s
Samuel Morse introduces Morse code to the world when he types out letters and sends that message along a cable. It doesn’t matter how long that cable is; the message was still going to be received on the other end. Within 30 years, cables connected Morse code operators throughout the world. England and the United States were connected by 1858. As a result of all of this cable laying, people could communicate with others on the other side of the world without experiencing any delays other than inconsequential ones for the first time in history.
Alexander Graham Bell displays his new invention, the telephone. His first words, „Mr. Watson, come here; I want to see you,“ are amongst the most famous ever spoken.
Although Thomas A. Watson was not far away – he was just in the next room – the moment was one of the most momentous ones in telecommunications history.
Gardiner Greene Hubbard, Bell’s father-in-law, organizes the Bell Telephone Company and the New England Telephone and Telegraph Company. Bell Telephone Company evolved into AT&T, which was founded by Bell in 1880. This was also the year that the first telephone line was constructed, between Boston and Somerville, Mass. Boston was also where the first switchboard was created, which occurred in 1877 as well. Additionally, this was the year when Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. He had discovered that a needle that was attached to a tin-foil cylinder and phonograph diaphragm could record sound. Edison tested the machine by saying and recording, „Mary had a little lamb,“ the title of a famous 19th-century nursery rhyme.
Nearly 50,000 telephones are now being used in the United States.
Also in this year, Bell makes the first wireless phone call. He did so by using light to transmit sound over a distance of 700 feet.
However, at this time, his invention was limited to situations where sunlight and good weather were contributing factors. But this moment did set the stage for how common wireless phones would become nowadays.
Nikola Tesla demonstrates that radio waves can be transmitted wirelessly to a public audience for the first time in St. Louis.
He sends a wireless transmission over a distance of a little more than a mile.
Telecommunications History in the 1900s
Marconi sends a radio transmission from Cornwall, England, to Newfoundland, Canada. This was especially noteworthy as many had told him that doing so was impossible due to the earth’s curvature. Ironically, those critics were right in theory, but Marconi was fortunate that the radio waves hit the ionosphere before ricocheted back towards earth and towards Canada.
More than 2.2 million telephones are now in use.
Telephone lines connect the East and West Coasts of the United States. This was successfully tested at the time but with no fanfare.
Bell and Watson have another telephone conversation, but this time they are not in adjacent rooms. Instead, Bell is in New York, and Watson is in San Francisco. Once again, Bell told Watson to „come here,“ but Watson replied that now it’d take him several days to do so. This public relations move is what introduced coast-to-coast telephone service to the public.
Philo Farnsworth introduces television to the world. He had discovered that radio waves could be encoded with images, which could then be projected onto a screen. Herbert Hoover, who was then the secretary of commerce before serving as the country’s president from 1929-33, was the person featured on those moving images. He spoke about the invention that he was actively a part of.
The predecessor of Skype and FaceTime is invented:
The Iconophone. However, this two-way videophone did not prove to be popular.
The first car phone is introduced to the world when a call is made from a car in St. Louis.
The initial device weighed 80 pounds.
The transistor is invented. This allowed a number of electronic devices in the decades to come to be miniaturized as compared to the sizes that they otherwise would have been.
In other words, the transistor is what causes laptops and phones to be as small as they are nowadays.
The Space Age hits the telecommunications field as the Communications Satellite Act is passed. This allowed AT&T to construct satellites, which would be put into orbit in 1964. This development has allowed various other communication methods to be transmitted via these satellites.
The first computer network, is invented. This would be a predecessor of the internet as the latter was based on ARPANET.
Prior to this moment, computers had not been interconnected.
The first handheld mobile phone – i.e. not one connected to a car – is used. It weighed more than 2 pounds and took a year – yes, a year – to recharge. Its battery power allowed for a 30-minute phone call.
Email is invented as messages could now be sent from one computer to another. Few knew at the time how extensive its use would become within a couple of decades, once the internet became common usage, and people realized how much cheaper and quicker it was to communicate via this method.
The internet is invented as ARPANET is replaced by a family of TCP/IP protocols.
The first text message is sent by Neil Papworth from his computer to a cellphone. It said, „Merry Christmas,“ having been sent a week after Thanksgiving. However, email was slow to take off. Three years after this famous text was sent, the average customer was sending out less than one text message every two months.
The initial smartphone, Simon, is released. Its primary groundbreaking feature was the user now being able to use it to send and receive email. It also included things like the ability to create to-do lists, access calendars and fax. However, this $900 device did not prove to be popular as only 50,000 were sold.
is used for the first time to describe a device although ones that were smartphones but without the name had already made their debut years earlier.
Telecommunications History in the 2000s
The first camera phone hits the market. The J-SH04 was only released in Japan.
It’s now possible to use the internet to make phone calls, greatly reducing or limiting long-distance charges.