Throughout history, man has sought to improve means and methods of communication. In this country, establishment of the U.S. Postal Service in 1775 was a seminal event providing organized collection and delivery. This was followed by building cross continent railroads in the mid 1800's, which brought us both faster mail delivery and "real time" communication via telegraph. In between, we also had the Pony Express and yes, smoke signals too. By the time I grew up, it seemed to be all about cables - really big cables. Adding service capacity and improving performance was also a really big deal as these photos taken in the 1940's will attest.
Photo courtesy University of Washington Libraries, IND1425, circa 1940's
The project was to improve telephone service between Bellevue and Seattle after the war. This required reels of big cable, barges and tugs to lay cable across Lake Washington.
Photo courtesy University of Washington, IND1435, circa 1940's
It also required legions of engineers dressed in their best suit, tie and hat to supervise.
Photo courtesy University of Washington Libraries, IND1429, circa 1940's
Adding capacity was expensive. To transmit information in addition to voice over these cables gobbled up lots of capacity, in large part due to the analog technology being used. Transmitting analog information was like taking a picture, printing it on film and sending the photo. Once you received it, there wasn't much you could do except file it. It wasn't "data" in a form that you could do something with.
I feel fortunate to have grown up during the cusp of the transition from analog to digital with memories while in college of writing programs in both Fortran and Basic, then having to make punch cards for batch processing on a main frame. It wasn't long, however, before punch cards became a thing of the past and in June 1979, Apple introduced the Apple ii plus.
Not only did we no longer need a mainframe, I could soon do some simple financial spreadsheets and budgeting at home. We now had data in digital format and a crude ability to manipulate it. Why in the world I tossed my Apple ii plus when I no longer used it is beyond me. It would be worth a fortune today.
Meanwhile, Martin Cooper and Motorola were way ahead of us, already working on the concept of a cell phone. Cooper, also known as father of the cell phone, and his colleagues at Motorola introduced the first cell phone in 1983. That's not long ago and look where we are today.
How many of us have land lines for phones anymore? How many of us deign to call people instead of just texting them? Streaming videos, managing our homes' appliances, TV's, sound systems and security systems, reading the news, sharing the latest with "friends". It's all wireless. And now even some of my car's functions operate wirelessly. Exciting times and requires us seniors working hard to keep up.
Come to think of it - aren't smoke signals a form of wireless communication?