A look at communication from caves to computers

Rachel Guenther

Humans have come a long way in communicating since prehistoric times, about 30,000 B.C.The year 2000 A.D. is here and the information superhighway still exceeds the limit.

Prehistoric Time 30,000 B.C.

The early ways used for communicating information by those people were probably sounds and gestures. Some experts who have studied the language and prehistoric ways of life think that language formed by accident, because early people were most likely copying the sounds they heard, such as the howling of the wind or the gruntings of animals. But how is it that humanity evolved from cave paintings to literature with a demanding set of linguistic rules?

The first step toward written language was Paleolithic art. These drawings of animals on the walls of caves apparently played a part in religious rituals and were believed to possess great magical powers.

The Sumerians, who were the first to develop pictographic writing about 3500 B.C., were also the first to develop vocabulary, grammar and syntax. Although their language is the oldest known, it is also the hardest to understand because the language does not appear to relate to any other known kind.

This language was written in cuneiform script dating back to 3000 B.C. and eventually the spoken form died out in 2000 B.C. Even though the language was never heard again, its literary manifestation continued to grow. The pictographic writing gradually made its way from pictures to symbols representing sounds, rather than an object or idea. As a result, early people could write any word in the spoken language. Soon after the language developed, people began exchanging messages and news chiefly by word of mouth.

Runners carried spoken messages over long distances and some people, generally the native Americans, used drumbeats, fires and smoke signals to communicate with other people.

Writing ranked second only to speech among the earliest inventions in communication. With the invention of writing, prehistoric time ended and the period of written history began.

Ancient Time 500 B.C.

In ancient times, writing was the chief means of communication. Rich people hired professional messengers who carried letters on foot, on horseback or by ship, and army people also used homing pigeons. The Greeks developed a fast method to carry messages from city to city in 500 B.C. The system involved brick walls built close to each other. Along these walls were holes representing the letters of the alphabet. People built fires through these holes and a watcher on the next wall relayed the message. This was called a visual telegraph. Ancient Rome also had a handwritten paper called the “Acta Diurna,” which translates to “daily events.”

Middle Ages 400 B.C. – 1000 A.D.

In the Middle Ages from 1000 B.C. to 400 A.D., communication was greatly influenced by the Christian church. Church leaders could read and write, and most books dealt with religious themes; therefore, only a few ordinary people could read and write. Scribes, or monks who devoted their lives to hand-copying various religious documents, would spend months or even years working on a single text. As strange as it may seem, some of these monks could not even read themselves.

Renaissance Period 1300 – 16000

The concept of the scribe ended after an extended amount of books were copied over and the concept of printing came into effect in the 14th century. Printing began to take place during the Renaissance period, which was a period of increased intellectual activity. Books were in great demand. The first printer made playing cards by a process called “block printing.” A card was carved in on a piece of wood, then the ink image was pressed against it. This same method was later incorporated into bookmaking. It was a time-consuming process until movable type was introduced.

The letters could be separated, rearranged and used over again. This new way in Europe had many people worried, though. Many people believed it was black magic, because all of the books looked the same and printing was done in such a timely fashion, leaving the people of Europe in great wonderment.

The only way to remedy the situation was to print only religious books and Bibles. As a result, people started to question the Roman Catholic Church, which led to the establishment of the Protestant Churches.

Modern Time 1600 – 1800

In the 1600s and 1700s, businesses started printing techniques all over Europe and the business sheets later were turned into non-business news where the newspapers were born, along with advertisement.

Soon after that the postal service was created. This milestone was soon followed by a long-distance communication system devised by Claude Chappe of France.

It was a visual telegraph greater than the one devised by the Greeks. This telegraph machine could send messages across Europe and were read with a telescope.

New Inventions 1800 – 2000

While newspapers could produce mass communication even faster between communities of the world, it was not until the invention of the electronic telegraph that messages could be sent over wires in seconds. Morse code was born into the world and communication was brightening its horizons. Soon enough, we would see a telegraph that could send messages under the Atlantic Ocean in minutes.

While we have seen many inventions surrounded by spoken or written words, there is still the world of unspoken and unwritten expressions.

Photography took a huge leap into the world of communication in the 1830s. Although not usually thought of as a way of communicating, it was, after all, the first. Some of the most controversial themes were caught on film over the years – expressions of wartime and history, happiness and sadness and also trial and error. These images could produce more than what one sentence could say and held more emotion than what could be expressed.

With film being developed in the 1830s, it was only a matter of time before someone would think of putting them together for a motion picture, and in 1877, Eadweard Muybridge did.

He was working in California on a series of photos of a running horse.When he put them together he had the first successful photographs in motion. His achievements influenced inventors around the world and led us to computer-enhanced movies, television and more that we have the opportunity to experience today.

At the same time Muybridge was working on his film, Alexander Graham Bell was busy on his own ideas about communicating. In 1877, he patented the first telephone. This apparatus was used for transmitting to and receiving sounds or speech from a distant point over wires by means of electricity. This wire that transmits sound is also the same one used in radio, since it, too, concerns itself with frequent vibrations.

This wireless telegraph, commonly known as the radio, was invented in 1895 and has significantly influenced our world since.

Future 2000 – ?

When we look back into our history, we see so much evolution. We have come so far from the cave paintings of 30,000 B.C. Today we have wireless phones and DVDs, both of which will be replaced if they have not already. Communication has changed so much and will only continue to change at a rate faster than the world might be able to handle. How prepared are we for these changes? What can we expect?