The ability to communicate effectively is one of the most important ability that distinguishes humans from animals and has been the reason for their evolution to the current stage. Communication is essential for sharing experiences and for creating, maintaining, sustaining, and propagating knowledge. In the history of human civilization many very influential inventions were related to communicating experiences across space and time. The implications of these inventions are very enlightening.
In the early stages of the human civilization, there was no way to share experiences. The first mechanism invented to communicate was language. At first it was just the analog sounds from vocal cords. Eventually it became a symbolic structure based on those sounds. Language sets us apart from animals; as far as we know, no other species has a well-developed language system.
Soon people realized that experiences were important and must somehow be stored for sharing with others. Written language was invented as the system for representing the sounds for communication so other people could also share experiences. Cumbersome techniques like stone tablets gave way to more practical storage devices and writing methods. These methods required paper and ink, and still more people began using stored experiences others had painstakingly recorded. Then came one of the most influential inventions in our historyâ€“ the Gutenbergâ€™s movable printing press. This invention enabled mass communication for the first time, which revolutionized society. Our current education system, our reliance on documents as a major source of communication, and newspapers all stem from that one invention that took place more than 500 years ago.
The telegraph allowed instantaneous communication of the symbolic information over long distances and began to bring the world closer. It was the beginning of the global village. Telephone let us return to our natural communication medium, talking, while retaining all the advantages of instantaneous remote communication. People could experience the emotions of the person on the other endâ€”something symbol-based methods of writing and telegraph could only hint at.
Radio ushered in the wireless approach to sound and popularized the idea of sound as a medium for instantaneous mass communication. Television increased emotions by appealing to our sight as well as our hearing. It was the first medium that let us experience with more than one of our senses. The popularity of video communication is clearly due to utilization of our two most powerful senses in harmony to communicate experiences.
Storage and distribution technology, such as magnetic tape, allowed the storage, preservation, and distribution of sound, again bringing us closer to natural experience. Video recording enhanced this experience significantly. Digital media further improved the quality of our experience.
The Internet took information availability to a new dimension, providing us with experiential accounts of an unprecedented variety. Now we can mix and match different media to communicate the message. This is beginning of new communication methods.