Some Milestones In Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

The Penny Black

The idea of a postal system has been around since 2,400 B.C. It took the form of a basic courier system in Egypt and other countries up until 1840. Throughout the intervening years the recipient was the one who paid for the delivery of the parcel or the letter. But when Sir Rowland Hill introduced the idea of prepaid stamps and introduced the Penny Black, the modern postage system was born.

The Pony Express

I remember writing a story in school all about the Pony Express, I was fascinated by  how they co-ordinated the post in the wild west. The idea of men riding at full speed, changing horses and sleeping out on the harsh ranges captured my imagination.

Characters like Pony Bob and William Coady cut their teeth in the wild west delivering mail along dusty roads, pounding by homestaeds. Sadly the combination of a number of factors killed the Pony Express.

  • Only grossing $90, 000 while losing $200,000.
  •  The outbreak of the American Civil War.
  • major advances in the telegraph system.

In 1869, 8 years after it had finished it was the first ‘event’ to be depicted on a U.S. postage stamp.

At the same time the Pony Express was coming to an end  in the U.S. in Europe messengers of very well off people were paid to deliver letters. Manservants and Maids would dutifully wait in the ante-room for an answer from the recipient as ink stained fingers scratched out a reply.

The Telegraph

One of the developments that helped finish off the Pony Express  was the Telegraph. Messages sent using electrical pulses that could travel large distances through connected wires.

Samuel Morse used (amongst other elements) the electromagnet combined with his simple code to send the first message from  the Supreme Court chamber in the Capitol in Washington, D.C., to the B & O Railroad Depot in Baltimore, Maryland. This was on the 24th may 1844. Hover over his picture to read his message.

Cyrus West Field (born on what was to become my birthday) made his money manufacturing Paper in New York during the early 1800s and retired a millionaire in 1853 at the age of 34.

He then threw himself into the business of Telegraphy. Over the next 13 years he was responsible for the laying of cables between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia and after a few lost and frayed attempts managed to connect the U.S. to the UK. His Paper Co. went belly up and he died in bankruptcy.

The telephone

In 1876 Alexander Graham Bell patented

“the method of, and apparatus for, transmitting vocal or other sounds telegraphically … by causing electrical undulations, similar in form to the vibrations of the air accompanying the said vocal or other sound”.

His invention caught on like wildfire. Within two years the first Telephone Exchange opened in New Haven, Conneticut and another few years pass with every major city in the U.S. opening their own.

1927 saw the first international line between The U.S. and london, a 3 minute call cost $75.

Then in 1963 the first touchtone telephones began to replace the dial.

Bell himself refused to have a telephone installed into his study as he found they distracted from his many other scientific pursuits. Hover over the picture for the first words spoken over the telephone.


Radio would not have been possible without the inventions of the  telephone or the telegraph, all three methods of communication are linked by their processes.

Radio came about primarily because of the efforts of these three men.

Firstly, in the 1860s, a Scottish Physicist, James Clerk Maxwell, introduced the world to the electro-magnetic field, proving that it came in the forms of waves, he also worked out that light was another form of electro-magnetic radiation that also travelled in waves. With these two discoveries under his belt he predicted the existence of radio waves.

Twenty years later, in 1886, a German physicist, Heinrich Rudolph Hertz,  put Maxwell’s theory into practice and calculated and successfully tested the theory that an electric current swinging very rapidly back and forth in a conducting wire would radiate electromagnetic waves into the surrounding space.

But the man most responsible for standing on the shoulders of the last two scientists and actually creating the first radio broadcast was Guglielmo Marconi. Born of Italian and Irish parents Marconi’s interest in the development of the radio signal was backed by his Irish mother, Annie Jameson, when the Italian government refused to take any interest.

In 1895 he sent the first radio transmission in Italy and six years later using Morse code he sent the first transatlantic message.


In 1900 the word ‘television’  was first spoken in public at the International Worlds Fair in Paris. Russian Scientist Constantin Perskyi read a paper on the current developments in electromechanical technologies, he referred to the German inventor Paul Nipkow’s scanning disk which remained popular until 1939.

But the man who is most responsible for the invention of the modern television is John Logie Baird. By 1925 he was able to give various demonstrations of still image projection. In this year another inventor, Charles Francis Jenkins, projected a moving windmill in Maryland, U.S.A. But by January the 26th 1926 Baird was able to transmit what is widely accepted as the first television moving  images accompanied by continuous tonal variation.

The development of the Television signal grew rapidly, in 1927 the first transmission from London to Glasgow and 1928 saw the first transmission between London and New York. This was delivered through the telephone system.

1941 saw the first television advertisement in the United States, it was aired just before a baseball game on the 1st of July. Bulova watchmakers paid $9. Hover over the ad to see what they said.

Communication satellites

The first artificial satellite to be launched from Earth was the Russian Sputnik 1, October 4th 1957, the U.S. followed in 1958 with Project Score. These were very basic satellites with very basic radio and recording devices, most mobile/cell phone technology today is far more advanced (with the exception of  the actual rockets to break through the Earth’s atmosphere!!) .

The science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke had written a letter to Wireless World in 1945 outlining the use of orbiting satellites to relay communications twenty years before the Russian’s launched Sputnik 1.

The Internet

During the Second World War Joseph Carl Robnett Licklider did ground breaking work in Psychoacoustics (the psychological and physiological study of sound and music perception). During the Cold War his reputation found him working at the first semi-automated defence systems the U.S. had built.

His work consisted delivery and analysis of data and so he was in contact with the early use of computers. In 1960 he published a paper called Man-Computer Symbiosis in which he described his vision.

“A network of such [computers], connected to one another by wide-band communication lines [which provided] the functions of present-day libraries together with anticipated advances in information storage and retrieval and [other] symbiotic functions.”
—J.C.R. Licklider
His theoretical work with Information Techniques Processing Office within the U.S. department of Defence led to his theory of ARPAnet, a way to connect the three computers that made up the department which were located in different parts of the country. He left the project before his theory could be realised.
By 1968 and based on his work Robert Taylor and Larry Roberts set up the first actual ARAPNET link between University of California and Stanford Research Institute. This is what they sent

“We set up a telephone connection between us and the guys at SRI …”, Kleinrock … said in an interview: “We typed the L and we asked on the phone,

“Do you see the L?”
“Yes, we see the L,” came the response.
We typed the O, and we asked, “Do you see the O.”
“Yes, we see the O.”
Then we typed the G, and the system crashed …

Yet a revolution had begun” .


At about the same time that answering machines were being sold commercially for your telephone (in the 1960’s and 70’s), the first computers that could run two programs simultaneously introduced the Computer network to the world.

In late 1971 a computer engineer called Ray Tomlinson wrote a program and sent it to a remote colleague, it entailed instructions on how to send a file back to him, the first email had been sent. Let the icon below tell a little more.

It took another twenty years for this form of communication to catch on and with the expansion of the Internet email ate into the popularity of the post.

130 years after the first Penny Black was stuck on an envelope the first email sent.

Mobile Phones & texting

In 1973 Dr. Martin Cooper of Motorola created the first Mobile (Cell) phone, he used it to call his rival in Joel Engel at AT&T . By 1985 they had entered the market. The Motorola DynaTac 8000x (even the names were chunky) was one of the first models for sale.

Within a few years they had gained a strong foothold over landlines and became smaller and more annoyingly useful.

Texting as a function was introduced in 1992 with the launching of the 2G networks and quickly became more popular than phone manufacturers had first  imagined and won over may forms of mobile internet communication.

 Then mobile phones they grew bigger again to incorporate the power of computers into the tablet devices we have today.

Social media

Twenty five years after that emails were freely available and it seemed like they were here to stay until the launching of Social Networking sites like Bebo, MySpace,  Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr alongside text messages from your phone people are now constantly in touch and leaving or answering voice messages is dying out.

From most populated places in the world we cannot only send messages to our loved ones but send them photographs as easily if they were sitting in the couch beside us using their tablet technology.

Business has been revolutionised. Administration can now now exist in on-line Cloud Computing allowing people to access data as opposed to send it anywhere which means offices have become truly paperless.

The application of these technologies to Health is huge. Smaller hospitals in outlying areas can now send images of their patient’s ailments to more experienced doctors for a second opinion.

Though the speed and integration of all these methods of communication have brought their own perils with cyber terrorists who see the massive networks as Goliath like targets. Identity theft has become much easier through having our lives and our personal devices synched and connected. It is no wonder that the institution ITU was founded by the United Nations.  ITU is responsible for monitoring ICT, identifying and eliminating cyber threats as they arise. They also are looking at ways to integrate ICT in a more environmental vision of the future.

What is the next step?

can anyone predict the future of Comminucations Technology?

Predicting the future is always risky because nobody know what is around the corner. While some people say we have reached the pinnacle of science & technology, I disagree, look at the development of the telephone since Graham Bell  made his first call in 136 years ago, the internet has only been around for the around half a century.

The main way ICT will help us is if it is tailored to our way of life as opposed to us having to adapt to new introductions.

Here are a few current developing technologies. They are in their infancy at the moment but give them a few years and they have the potential make an impact.

SmartHouses have been around for a few years now.  Companies such as are providing services that allow you to activate  the heating on your way home, unlock the door and turn on the lights as you walk up the garden and monitor your energy use from your smart phone. Personally, I want my house to make dinner, clean up and do all my household chores leaving me time to live my life.

Scientists are now attaching sensors to the underside of people’s chins because when we read our brain send signals to our voice-boxes preparing it to speak the written words that we see. These sensors detect the words our voice boxes are ready to say. Even though they have voice impaired people in mind I also see it as the first step in thought activation?

Here is Intel’s six minute vision of how technology could intergrated into our lives in the near future.


I will leave you with this exciting and creepy way that the internet has been used in conjunction with robotics to deliver information in quite a unique way. (which is really a whole other blog!)


4 responses to “Some Milestones In Information and Communication Technology (ICT)

  1. I always enjoy your ramblings Ben

  2. Love it! Very interesting.

  3. Very much enjoyed your ramblings this evening Ben…thank you x

  4. Really enjoyed this Ben

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