The History of Communication

How do new inventions change the way we communicate?


Before the development of writing, people used speaking as a way of communicating their thoughts, and stories were passed from tribe to tribe or generation to generation by word of mouth only. Speaking continues to be the most popular form of communicating throughout the world to this day.


After the written word came the introduction of symbols to convey ideas. The simplest form of symbol communication was creating pictures of an animal or event. These drawings were representational and were not standardized. More complex forms include pictographs, little drawings and etchings that represent ideas or objects, and ideograms, in which a uniform system of abstract symbols each represent a specific idea or object. Combining pictographs or ideograms allowed for the expression of more complex ideas. Ideograms are still used in several places around the world, including China and Japan.

The Alphabet

An alphabet is composed of letters that each represent a sound or a small number of sounds. Rather than using individual symbols to represent specific ideas, the alphabet allowed people to write words as they were spoken, allowing people to convey any ideas that they could express in words in written form. Alphabet based writing systems continued to be used by most countries around the world.

Mass Printing

With the invention of the printing press came the ability to make many reproductions of the same written work without having to go to the labor of writing each copy out by hand. Printed books continue to be popular around the world, and nowadays public websites and file-sharing sites make sharing a text even easier than before.

High-Speed Communication

Starting with the electric telegraph, high speed long distance communication allowed people to convey ideas and information over vast distances almost instantly. The invention of the telephone made it possible to even hold conversations across long distances, and nowadays there are many technologies that capitalize on this idea, such as instant messaging, video chatting, and text messaging.

The Internet

The internet is in some ways a combination of the best of each form of communication. Internet forums, messaging systems, website creators, and comments sections allow anyone with access to a computer to share their ideas instantly and permanently, and in a way that allows those who have never met or even heard of the writer to view it and, in many cases, contribute their ideas as well. It allows for fast conversations between dozens if not hundreds of people worldwide without regard for distance. Translation services even allow the language barrier to be overcome, allowing for truly global conversations and conveyances of ideas.

Images Used Citation (in order of appearance)

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Rankin, Kennedy. Muirhead Automatic Telegraph Syphon Receiver. Digital image. Wikipedia. N.p., n.d. Web

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