In the Beginning…Julius Caesar commanded his troops through multiplebattles. He went into battle with them and in order toreach other commanding officers of Rome, he sent acourier on horseback with a written order bearing hisseal.
General Washington at Valley ForgeAbility for Generals to command an army remained the samethrough the American Revolution and beyond. Generals werepresent on the battlefield and communicated by courier withtheir other generals and people back home.
But things were about to change…“What Has God Wrought?” those words werethe beginning of a communication revolution.They were send on May 24, 1844 by SamuelMorse via Morse Code on the telegraph.
TelegraphThanks to the telegraph, President Abraham Lincoln becomesthe first commanding general in the history of the world tocommunicate remotely in real time to his Generals and Officersduring the Civil War. He often slept in the telegraph office.
Lincoln Communicates from WashingtonGeneral Grant received this telegram fromPresident Lincoln in 1864. Communication hadtaken a huge leap forward and would never bethe same again.
A Leap in MessagingFor the first time, words could be sent in seconds withoutsending them via courier. People could communicate back andforth in real time. However, in order to speak to someone youstill had to be face to face but things were about to change… Alexander Graham Bell and his first Telephone circa 1876
“Mr. Watson come here I want you”With these words spoken by Alexander Graham Bell onMarch 10, 1876 another explosion in communicationtook place. Now you could speak to someone withoutbeing in the same room. This is a mere 32 years afterMorse sent his initial message.
The TelephoneAs much as the telegraph was a communication miracleallowing us to communicate over vast distances inseconds, the telephone enabled us to “talk” overdistances. For the next 100 years, the telephone is thedominant form of communication.
Advancement Comes QuicklyThe telephone continues to advance with this early dialphone shown from 1919. The speed of change isextraordinary compared to the thousands of yearswithout change in the way we communicated overdistances.
And it grows…Telephone wire is strung across vast areas tofurther increase the use and availability of thisnew fascinating mode of communication.
Connecting by HandIn some areas telephone calls were connectedby hand until after World War II.
Progress Moves RapidlyOnce the communication revolution began it could notbe stopped. In 1915 the first transcontinental call ismade and in 1926 the first transatlantic call.
The Telephone is EverywhereAs television becomes a part of our lives, the telephoneis an integral part of stories. Everyone home has one ormore, changes in style continue and we are talking andtalking and talking to each other…
Styles change and color emergesI grew up with a rotary phone, somethingpeople under 30 would be unaware of. The wallphone was in the kitchen. I was given a pinkPrincess phone on my 16th birthday.
Even the Flintstones had phonesOur imagination and obsession assured us thatFred, Wilma, Barney and Betty must havecommunicated by phone.
Not Everyone Had OnePart of the Honeymooners charm was the “minimalist”living style of Ralph and Alice. They did not have aphone. Ralph simply opened the kitchen window andyelled up for Norton. Rather old-fashioned but weloved it.
Used in Crimes…From Hitchcock to the Simpsons the phonecontinues to be a part of our lives. Here in DialM for Murder and Homer contemplatingstrangling Bart with the phone cord.
Where would Clark have changed?Where would Clark Kent have changed intoSuperman if he didn’t have phone booths onevery corner? Maybe a Starbucks restroom?
And then came the cordless..We then moved to the cordless phone. Youcould walk around and talk so long as youremembered to charge it.
We were thinking ahead…Always looking to the future we portrayed ourfuturistic ideas for communicating in ourpopular culture.
Cell Phone is BornUse of the personal mobile phone dates back to the early1990’s, although the technology started being tested in Chicagoin 1978. Now we had hand held devices that we could takeanywhere, providing we had service. They were large but itmeant we could talk anytime and anywhere. That meant wecould be reached anytime and anywhere. Another revolution incommunication was just around the corner. This next revolutionwould come full circle as we begin to write our communicationsinstead of speaking them.
Smaller and SmallerCell phone technology continues to advance and with itsmaller and smaller cell phones that do more andmore.
Email & Instant MessagingThe personal computer brings with it the ability to emailand instant message. It is no longer necessary to pick upthe telephone to communicate in a matter of minutes orseconds. Our progression away from speaking to eachother has begun.
The Telegraph Grows Up; Texting is BornEmail and instant messaging allowed us tocommunicate from our computers. Texting allows us toreach out anytime, anywhere with a real time messagethat is delivered via a cell phone. We move further andfurther away from “talking” as the phone call seems tobecome the last mode of communication.
What about face to face?It seems even when we are together, we oftenprefer to write our thoughts than to speak them.
Social MediaThe written word seems to have made a resurgence insocial media. MySpace, Facebook Posts, Blogs, OnlineChats all have us writing our thoughts instead ofspeaking them. Email is becoming passé and more andmore we turn away from communicating by voice.
140 CharactersSocial media allows us to connect without borders andcommunicate our personal and professional livesinstantaneously. The emergence of Twitter added anotherdimension, the ability to communicate in real time in 140characters or less. Like the telegraph we are now sending verysuccinct messages over vast distances in real time.
Written HistoryIt is generally believed that the earliest writing was done in Mesopotamia around 3200 B.C.E. Thatwould mean that for over 5000 years man used the written word to communicate over distances, recordhistory and transact business. While the printing press, typewriter and computer added vast advancesto spreading the written word and literacy, they did not dramatically transform our personalcommunications. The advent of the telegraph changed the way we could personally communicate overlarge distances and in seconds. In the blink of an eye technology has taken us from the telegraph totelephone to the cell phone to social media. I believe that along with this extraordinary transformationwe have evolved from a culture highly devoted to the spoken word thanks to the telephone to a revivalof the written word. This revival has become so obsessive that in many cases we are texting andtweeting to people who are sitting at the same table with us. We even sit with each other and text andtweet others instead of giving our attention to the person whom we are with. Twitter forces us tocommunicate in 140 characters much the same way those communicating by telegram wanted to keepmessages short and to the point.The return of the written word may have significant implications for history as eachblog, post, text, tweet, email, etc. is a living record of ordinary people going about their lives. That issomething that has often been sorely lacking in historical data.While that is great for future historians, it begs the question of “what happened to spokenconversation?”. The written word is not always the best form of communication especially whendealing with sensitive issues and conflict.The subtleties of expression and body language are no more clear with a Tweet than with a telegram.How will we integrate our love of communicating instantly on little hand held devices with our need toverbally express ourselves and socialize face to face? I suspect technology will provide the answer inthe blink of an eye.