Naturally, one of the most basic things we humans must do is communicate with each other. Doing so on an individual, person-to-person basis is simple; it is the other stuff that is hard. How do you get your message across town, from one village to another, and eventually, from one country to another? Enter the long-distance telecommunications industry. Earliest known forms of long-distance telecommunications include drums, homing pigeons, and smoke signals. The earliest recorded optical telegraphs date back as far as the Greeks in 4th century BC in the form of hydraulic semaphores, which were later used by the Chappe Brothers who developed the first practical telecommunications system of the industrial age. These were water-filled vessels used for visual signals. All of these tools were surprisingly effective but much too dependent upon such unreliable variables as weather. It wasn’t until 1813 that the first electrical telegraph, which used static electricity, was invented by English scientist and inventor Francis Ronalds, who was knighted for his groundbreaking technological discoveries.
In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell significantly advanced the telecommunications industry by conducting the first successful two-way conversation over the telephone in Massachusetts. In 1888, the existence of radio waves was proved by German physicist Heinrich Hertz, for whom the frequency term ‘hertz’ is named. Upon its heels, Guglielmo Marconi invented the radio, followed several years later by his first transatlantic wireless signals in 1901 and the first truly long-distance conversation via underground cable from New York to Newark in 1902. In 1947, the introduction of transistors birthed the electronics field, and 1958 saw the first integrated circuit. This was the same year the first U.S. satellite relayed communications using a tape recorder to store and send voice messages, with the microprocessor’s invention soon after in 1969.
In 1974, the first voice communications between computers was tested by the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARAPNET), a packet-switching network and an early predecessor to the internet. The call took place at the Information Sciences Institute’s Lincoln Laboratory. It was a one-way test that said just that—‘this is a test.’ This was revolutionary and led to the Voice over Internet Protocol technology we have today.
You can thank American engineer Martin Cooper, CEO of Motorola, for pioneering wireless communications. He was the inventor of the first cell phone called the ‘Motorola Dyna-Tac’ back in 1975. The phone was nine inches long and weighed in at two pounds. And, funny story, when CEO Cooper placed his history-making first cell phone call, it was to speak with Motorola’s biggest competitor! Not long thereafter in 1981, the first mobile phone network was launched in Japan, and on its heels the highly secure limited network used by the U.S. Military to communicate known as the Internet was introduced to the public for everyone’s use in the 1990s. Voice over packet technology came soon after, which is thought to have begun by hobbyists who realized the potential of transmitting voice data packets (units of data used in Internet Protocol or IP data transmissions) over the Internet instead of using the telephone. This technology, known as Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) allows users to avoid high long distance charges.