Monday, April 21, 2014

Telecommunications: Past, Present, and Future

The telecommunications industry doesn’t have a specific day in which it was founded, but it nonetheless has a long and rich history that has led us to where we are today with ubiquitous internet and fast mobile connections. All of it is a culmination of standards, protocols, and science, each of them working together in harmony to form the highly connected technology that we take for granted today. The beginnings of all of this were quite humble, starting with nothing more than a system where you could send Morse code through miles and miles of wire.

The Early Days

The idea of using electricity for communication came about very early on, around the year 1753. At the time the idea was deemed too impractical to implement, putting it on the backburner for many decades to come.

Further experiments wouldn’t be performed until the 1800’s, with the first electrostatic telegraph being invented by Francis Ronalds. It used individual wires for each letter of the alphabet, and was initially set up in his garden, able to transmit signals over eight miles. The use of Morse code through telegraph lines wouldn’t come until much later, around the year 1837.

Analog to Digital

Fast forward a number of years, and you’ll hear the familiar name of Alexander Graham Bell, the person who patented the telephone in 1876. Bell and Gardiner Greene Hubbard would later go on to found the Bell Telephone Company, which would later become the American Telephone & Telegraph, or AT&T. At the time, AT&T was the largest telecommunications company in existence.

From there, telecommunications really started to take off, especially when inventions like radio, television, and satellites came into play. In a relatively short period of time in history, we had invented the ability to transmit moving pictures and audio to a very wide area, and relay that signal across the world.

Perhaps the biggest and most significant invention was the Internet, which continues to change and revolutionize the way we communicate, work, and live our lives.

Mobile Technology

Today, besides the Internet, cell phones have dominated the telecommunications industry, accelerated by the invention of the iPhone in 2007, considered by many to be the start of the modern smartphone. Since then, the entire telephone industry was changed, and today the vast majority of young people are favoring mobile phones over traditional landlines. Increasingly, we’re communicating with each other without the use of wires—only electromagnetic waves invisible to our human eyes.

What’s in Store

As always, it’s difficult to predict the future if you want to be absolutely accurate about it. However, it doesn’t take a visionary to see that mobile devices and pervasive Internet connectivity are dramatically changing our lives. Currently it is the hope of current governments that even people in the most rural areas should have access to reasonably fast Internet. And increasingly, this is becoming more of a necessity as things like job applications start to move entirely online.

Eventually, it wouldn’t be that strange to see pervasive connectivity take over our lives to the point where it comes the norm—where we don’t even notice that we’re using this technology because it has become so seamless and transparent.

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