The Evolution of Communication technology

Adam Alred • 06 Feb 2023 • 4 min read

It goes without saying that communication is key to understanding people, not just in person but over the phone and online. Thus, it should be no real surprise that communication technology is now an essential component of a functioning human civilization.

Of course, over the years, the various methods people have used to communicate have changed dramatically – from face-to-face interactions all the way to the internet in modern times.

So, if you want to see just how this change occurred, read on to learn more about the evolution of technology in communication across human history.

Prehistoric communication

Besides talking and gesturing, the oldest form of communication we know of are cave paintings; simple drawings made on the walls of countless caves more than 30,000 years ago.

With these, there were no words, just rudimentary images that represented events and individuals of importance to those living there, events and people that we will sadly never know anything about.

Early written communication

Eventually, humanity moved on from their tribal lifestyle and began founding the first civilizations, such as the Egyptians and Babylonians. It was here that the first forms of written communication came into existence.

Basic symbols rather than the letters and numbers we’re familiar with today, these pictures were used as stand-ins for words, with the oldest popping up around 10,000 B.C.E. in the form of things like Egyptian hieroglyphics and Chinese characters.

Then, a little after 2,000 B.C.E., the first alphabet was finally created, in which symbols stood for sounds, rather than whole words. Smoke signals were sometimes even used as well, as these could be used to send messages over long distances quickly.

The first long-distance communication

Even though writing systems such as hieroglyphics could take a long time to put to papyrus, written communication over distances still began as early as 2,400 B.C. in Egypt, where government announcements were written down and carried across the country. Persia, China, and Rome then soon followed in their footsteps.

Eventually, this idea would spread all over the world, with sending messages in print becoming even easier in 1440, when Johannes Gutenberg developed the movable-type printing press. This made it much easier and faster to print multiple copies of things like books and newspapers and led to the flourishing of the fledgling newspaper industry.

The telegraph and radio communication

After early written words and newspapers, the evolution of communication technology took a backseat until the harnessing of electricity in the 1830s. This was when the telegraph and Morse code were invented.

Using the simple dot-dash language, this technology let people send messages over a wire, meaning that they could send a message quickly over a long distance at record speeds.

Meanwhile, other scientists were hard at work studying radio waves and how they could be used to transmit sound. In the 1890s, Guglielmo Marconi created the first radio transmission system, which could send a message through the air over a distance of up to 2 miles.

At first, radio became an important communication method used to send messages to and from boats at sea. But over time, it would also become a form of entertainment, as radio broadcasts began bringing music into people’s homes.

Modern telecommunication

Eventually, after a long and winding process, communication evolution reached the point where it began to resemble modern communication as we know it today. All thanks to the invention of the telephone by Alexander Graham Bell in the 1870s.

This technology enabled people to send sounds through a wire over long distances so that they could actually speak to each other instead of sending Morse code. And within years, telephone services sprang up all over the US.

With sounds now being sent over a wire, scientists then quickly turned their attention to images. The first television broadcast came in 1936, and while it would take a few years for the technology to catch on with the public, by the end of the 1940s, more than two million individuals owned a TV.

Virtual communication

Last, but not least, we come to the virtual communication networks of today. The first computers were invented not long after the TV in the early 1940s, but at this point, they weren’t connected to each other.

Instead, if you wanted to share data that was on your computer, you’d need to make a copy of it and mail it to someone. However, in the 1960s, the United States government invented the ARPANET, a network that researchers could use to send and receive information.

This technology would then be improved over the next few decades and open up to public use in the form of the Internet. Granted, at the time, the internet only had text, but this was a massive step up in communication evolution regardless. Fortunately, that all changed in 1989 when Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.

In tandem with the development of the internet also came the creation of wireless phone technology in the 1970s and 1980s. Cellular phones evolved rapidly once introduced, from phones big enough to carry in a suitcase to ones you could hold in your hand.

In the 1990s, phones got even smaller, and they also got more affordable, meaning that more people could now buy one. The text message was invented, just in case you wanted to use your telephone to send a few words instead of making a call, and soon, this novelty became a staple of everyday life thanks to phones with keyboards.

Then, in the early 2000s, one of the biggest developments in modern communication took place: Phones, text messages, and the Internet were combined to create the smartphone. Possibly the most useful tool we currently have available to us.

Today, it seems like just about everyone has a smartphone in their pocket, putting a world of communication at their fingertips, from texting to TikTok.

Enhance your communication with VoiceNation

As you can see, the methods we use to communicate with one another have come leaps and bounds since pre-history, and it’s looking like it’s only going to become more advanced in the future.

And if you want to take advantage of all the recent developments in communication evolution, then you might want to consider VoiceNation for your business. From Virtual Receptionists to Live Chat, we’re ready and willing to take your business to new heights.

Get in touch with our team today to learn more about what we can offer, and if you want to learn more about telecommunication history, why not read our article on the history of the telephone?

By Adam Alred

VP of IT @ VoiceNation