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Origin of Modern Signal Communication

Part of the joy of Toastmasters is the fact that I have to (labour of love) throw together speeches now and again. Goes without saying. Being a geek, those speeches CAN SOMETIMES have to do with technology. Here’s looking at you Kip.

So today I’d like to share an outline from a speech presented last year. It’s got a lot of communications history tidbits that I’d been collecting back in the days when I co-ran The Pixel News, and later when I taught HTML and covered the history of the Internet. I like going wayyyy back to it’s origins.

BTW I always used to go WAYYYY over time with my speeches. learned to edit a bit. Now I need to learn to provide a formal bibliography of references (for next time). So you’re getting a formal intro, history notes to choose from, then a nice wrap up at the end. Here goes:

We’re all born with mouths. Mouths and ears. What these things imply at the very least is that we’re all made to communicate. With that in mind, it can be a pretty daunting task to tackle the subject of communications. As a geek, I feel bound to make this speech on communications and technology. But before I drone like a technical manual know that there’s a very human side to communications technology. All one needs to do is pick a starting point. So today I’ll start here:

Samuel Morse was a man of some fame who lived from 1791 to 1872

  • professional painter and amateur scientist
  • inspired by Joseph Henry’s development of the electromagnet
  • Henry sent the first electric impulse along a wire in 1831.
  • as a famous painter, Morse was commissioned to paint the portrait of U.S. President James Monroe (still hangs in White House)
  • while on another commission to paint General Lafayette in Washington, Morse’s wife turned ill and died. Morse was 500 kilometres away and the news took several days to reach him
  • in grief, Morse wondered if it were possible to erase the barriers of time and space so that no one would be unable to reach a loved one in time of need.
  • Morse invented the Telegraph
  • eventually gave up painting to pursue his inventions full time
  • he later developed a language of signals called Morse Code
  • now there is American, International and Continental


  • The Atlantic cable was established to carry instantaneous communications across the ocean.
  • a massive feat!
  • a technical failure!
  • remained in service for only a few days
  • HOWEVER, it served to mark as a starting point for instant communications on a global scale
  • subsequent cables were laid in 1866 and remained in use for nearly 100 years.


  • Alexander Grahme Bell. Inventor. Experimenting with “harmonic telegraph”, discovered he could hear sound over a wire. The sound was a twanging clock spring


  • 10 March, AGB describes his successful experiment with the telephone. Speaking through the instrument to his assistant, Thomas A. Watson, in the next room, Bell utters these famous first words, “Mr. Watson — come here — I want to see you.” (profound! :s )


  • construction of the first regular telephone line from Boston to Somerville


  • The first Bell telephone company started


  • let’s make money!
  • the first coin-operated telephone or pay phone was patented William Gray


  • Soviet Union celebrates the successful launch of Sputnik
  • U.S. President Dwight Eisenhower saw the to keep on top of all aspects in developmental science.
  • spurred the creation of Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA)
  • organization of some of America’s most brilliant minds
  • developed first US successful satellite in 18 months
  • several years later ARPA focus shifts to computer networking & communications technology


  • Dr. J.C.R. Licklider appointed head of ARPA
  • saw need to make computer use more interactive
  • saw need to move ARPA contracts from private sector to universities
  • foundation is laid for ARPANET


  • First logs sent over ARPANET. attempt was made from UCLA to log on to the computer LAN at Stanford. They were able to type “L” and “O”, but the system crashed typing the “G”
  • only two characters sent, but like the Atlantic communication cable, another communications revolution began.


  • ARPA renamed DARPA – Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency
  • “cold war” mentality sees ARPANET become a web of tied Networks. Idea that constant communications over a distance could survive a nuclear war
  • first public demos of ARPANET to motivate masses on potential of their research. Went very well, much to the surprise of skeptics at AT&T


  • ARPANET grows in constant use. Net is especially busy Friday nights. Weekly conference night on the Star Treck text-based game.


  • CERN (Centre European pour la Recherche Nucleaire… European laboratory of particle physics.
  • a prominent network amidst the chaos of network connections. CERNET
  • Tim Berners-Lee major contributor to
  • TCP/IP Transmission control protocol/internet protocol)
  • asked to come up with hypertext protocols. author or HTML
  • coins phrase World Wide Web


  • Wi-Fi comes into being with a patent for 802.11
  • is a standard for broadcasting Wirless Local area network on the 2.4, 3.6 and 5 GHz frequency bands
  • Wi-Fi actually a brand name. Stands for term “Wireless Fidelity” resembling the long-established audio-equipment classification term Hi-Fi (used since 1950) or high fidelity (in use since the 1930s).

We go on from there. What about radio? AM Radio? FM? Ham? When do cell phones come into play? The amount of change in the means and medium that we communicate is dizzying. The big shifts even prone to massive failures. The botched Atlantic cable. The crash at first login. The failure of Mr. Samuel Morse to make it home to his dying wife.

At the end of the day no matter how we’re doing it – even if it’s smoke signals letting the folks at home know that the bad guys are on their way. Communications seems to all come down to a pressing desire to, no matter the means, let the people that we love know we care about them.

And share funny videos of cats and the kids doing the darndest things.