Communications and Information Storage History

By: Dwayne Garrett

Developments related to information technology involved major advances in communication, such as the telegraph - which was really an electronic improvement on ancient methods such as drums and smoke signals, and later semaphore communication.

The first telegraph was actually built in 1809, but the technology matured during the mid-nineteenth century with the development of methods whereby actual images could be transmitted electronically (1843). With the laying of the Transatlantic Cable in 1866, communication that once took weeks or months could be accomplished in minutes.

Further advances included the development of wireless communication in the 1890's, and the combination of this technology with the typewriter to create the teletype machine in the early 20th century.

Thomas Edison was the first to come up with a way to store sound information with the invention of the phonograph in 1877, but it was really the development of audio magnetic recording tape in 1926 by German inventor Fritz Pfleumer that would become a method of storing information electronically.

Magnetic tape was initially used for recording sound. The technology finally arrived in the U.S. after the Second World War, and early computer engineers soon found uses for it. Magnetic audio tape was used to store data by the UNIVAC I computer of 1951.

What is interesting is how the information was stored - which differs little from the basic way information is stored today. If you were to listen to a magnetic tape on which computer data was stored, you would hear a series of beeps of varying lengths - but consisting of only two pitches. These are basically "ones" and "zeros" - the building blocks of all computer data.

Today, we are able to store, process and transmit more information than ever before in history, using nothing more than two symbols! 1 0

Information Technology Since 1980

The development during the 1970's of integrated circuits and the microprocessor were the advances that began the real revolution in computing. Before the 1970's, computers were huge, extremely expensive, and relatively slow.

Integrated circuits and microprocessors made possible the development of smaller, faster machines that were priced within the reach of more people. "Personal computers" had actually been around since the early 1950's (computing pioneer Edmund Berkeley published plans for a PC which he called "Simon" in Radio Electronics magazine in 1950 and '51).

However, the Apple II, released in April of 1977 (price: about $1300) was the first modern desktop computer featuring an interactive, graphical interface made widely available and affordable to the general public.1

The other significant development came in the early 1990's when a system of little-known academic and military networks dating from the late 1960's and early 1980's suddenly exploded into popularity. The World Wide Web, or Internet, has changed the way people access information, communicate and even entertainment itself.

Separate devices such as telephones, televisions and cameras are now becoming single devices that encompass all of these functions. Meanwhile, the power and capability of computers continues to go up while the cost of the technology continues to drop. Still, waiting to take advantage of technology will be a mistake.

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