Beginning with a simple start in the mid-1800s, communication methods have evolved from rudimentary long-distance telegraphs to today's wireless phones and Bluetooth-capable devices. Samuel F. B. Morse's telegraph and his Morse Code gave way to the first of radio's wireless transmissions. Through the use of two-way radio, wireless communications became available to individuals on land and at sea. A massive network of communication systems and companies grew through the United States which led to advances in cable design and structure. The advent of the cellular system introduced personal cell phones while beginning the downfall of the home phone. Defining American ingenuity, inventors, scientists, and a Hollywood bombshell came together through history to change the way we communicate forever.
First Communications Transmission
The history of modern communications typically begins with the invention of the telegraph by Samuel F. B. Morse and the subsequent code that bears his name. However, work towards long-distance communication methods began even earlier with the electromagnetic research of scientists such as Joseph Henry. Disputes over patent and design appeared making the telegraph not only a mechanical wonder but also a matter for the courts. Morse was ultimately the most successful with the first long-distance telegraph transmission in 1844.
- A Timeline of Wireless Communication from the University of Florida
- Biography of Samuel F. B. Morse
- A Forgotten History: Alfred Vail and Samuel Morse
- Learn about Joseph Henry's Contributions
Evolution of the Telegraph
Telegraphic technology saw increased complexity beginning with Morse's telegraph; however, it didn't peak with it. The science of communication continued to advance as more reliable forms were created to reach greater distances. Businesses such as Western Union were now capable of creating monopolies throughout the United States due to the increased need for this form of communication. Competition became fierce showing that technology was truly king in business.
- Learn about Telegraph Evolution through the History of the Telegraph from History Wired
- American Memory: Uniting a Nation
- Discover Technological Changes through the History of the U.S. Telegraph Industry
- Experience the End to Western Union with NBC News
Beginning in the 1890s, radio transmitters began to appear in the form of wireless telegraphy. The first machines were unable to transmit sound but researchers quickly completed the building blocks to allow the advance of voice transmission. On Christmas Eve in 1906, Reginald Fessenden accomplished the historic feat of completing the first radio broadcast. Over the next few decades news broadcasts, musical performances, and full-cast radio shows would catapult radio as the nation's favorite source of information and entertainment.
- FCC: The Ideas that Made Radio Possible
- The Edison Tech Center Presents the History of Radio
- A Science Odyssey: Marconi Receives the First Radio Signal in 1906
- The AWA Gateway: Evolution of the Broadcast Receiver (PDF)
- Discover Historic Predictions of the Future of Radio
Telephones and Landlines
As helpful as radios became, people longed for a form of communication in which two parties could communicate together. Our communication toolbox changed dramatically on March 10, 1876, when inventor Alexander Graham Bell made a historic call to his assistant using a brand new invention: the telephone. The world was now able to respond to news and information more quickly than ever before. The telephone also connected families when distance once separated them. By allowing voice communication to travel great distances, telephones gave businesses the tools to grow quickly while still supporting their customers. Although the telephone changed design multiple times after its invention, both in theory and in physical design, it never lost hold as a favorite method of communication.
- Library of Congress: Telephone and Multiple Telegraph Papers, Articles, and Essays
- Learn the History of the Telephone from AT&T Labs
- Capitol Hill's Telephonic Revolution
- Explore Telephones Throughout the Years with PBS's American Experience
Cellphone Replaces Home Phones
As with all other forms of technology, telephones refused to stay stagnant. Thanks to the research of scientists and even a Hollywood actress named Hedy Lamarr, cellular technology developed to allow wireless communication to become mobile. Devices became smaller and more affordable. Additional technologies such as Bluetooth, a short-range wireless radio transmission, have been developed to allow the use of cell phones in a hands-free mode. Cell phones and associated technology have become so convenient that families are now eliminating their home landlines in increasing numbers. Only the future knows where cellular technology will go next.
- A History of Wireless Communication from Tom Seymour of Minot State University
- The Yale-New Haven Teachers Institute Explains the Physics of Cell Phones
- Thank Actress Hedy Lamarr for Your Cell Phone
- How to Break Up with Your Landline
- Just for Fun: Physics.Org Takes a Guess at the Future of Cell Phones