By looking back at the history of communication, it is a simple task to pick out key moments in the evolution of information transmission. Papyrus (and later, paper) became a way of easily transmitting written messages rather than oral or verbal face-to-face communication. Newspapers and the printing press were a step forward in informing the masses rather than one by one.
Yet still there was one big issue – time delay. By the time that precious piece of paper has been written, given to a courier and trekked 100 miles to its destination, the information will be stale and quite possibly incorrect. The problem lay in the physicality of information – it had to be passed along through a chain of hands.
It was not until the arrival of the telegraph in 1837 that messages could (almost) be transmitted instantaneously across long distances. This was revolutionary – connections could be made between countries and across land and sea, between complete strangers – and forever changed our preconceptions of information networks. These principles, realised in the 19th century, became the foundation upon which all future communication technologies were, and still are, built. When we use these, we are utilising a spider’s web or “great nerve” of communication: each one of us is connected to others through this vast net of knowledge.
This video is a quick snapshot of the different forms of communication throughout human civilisation – notice that after the telegraph, each new form follows its lead by implementing instant communication and information nervous system at its core.