Communication Course #202 Part 1 of 3 – the real story

It used to be easy to communicate across long distances. We had smoke signals and drums. I’m not sure when our forefathers started using these communications tools, and some days I wonder why we don’t use them any longer, especially for secret messages that our wives will ignore.

In 1792 a Fench guy who really did not want to be home with his wife, built the first visual Telegrapy (Semaphore) system. It worked with pulleys of wood and rotating beams. A few years later someone with a little more smarts built a system with shutters, which was way faster. Some problems they had included finding skilled operators (no then) and that it would only work for up to nineteen miles. Their cousins 20 miles away were not happy. Everyone abandoned this service by 1880, creating piles of scrap shutters and ropes. The hippies in France used this litter for Bon fires.

In the early 1800’s some geeky German guys played around with electricity, needles, wires and tubes of acid (hmm). They proved that the telegraph could work, even though they were quite high during the demo. The happy telegraph operator was not so happy because the baud rate was so slow and he kept bombing out and needed more acid. Because of these issues and the exhorbinant cost, this project got shelved for quite some time.

In 1832, a guy named Jimmy Lindsay showed his high school class one of the very first WIFI demonstrations. The history is a little fuzzy, just like the original WIFI. The kids in his class had strange visions of texting, but could not understand what these visions meant. In 1854 he demonstrated sending a strange message about 2 miles from the room using the water of a local bay as the transport medium. Again a little fuzzy, but we are sure it was not the original Sext Message or broadcast of a Pee Wee Herman show. WiFI got put on hold for a while and Jimmy was supposedly stoned to death because the kids were so upset.

Sammy Morse created the telegraph in 1837. It failed miserably. In 1838 he hooked up with Al Vail and they got one working that this time had a register or paper recording (teletype) function bolted onto it. It worked across a 3 mile cable. In 1844 they got it to work over 40 miles. By 1851 they had stretched 20,000 miles of telegraph cables across the US. This marked the beginning of the end of men saying to their wives, “I did not get your message honey.”

In 1857 and then again in 1858 somebody with a lot of time on their hands and a big roll of wire, installed the first transatlantic telegraph wires. They both failed within weeks of installation, though the fishing was great. It was not until mid 1866 when a reliable big pond cable started working for the telegraph operators across the world. This created even more misery for men across the world whose wives wanted to call constantly to find out when they would be home.

In 1876 Alex Bell created the land line telephone. It was 1878 when he started rolling it out across New Haven Connecticut and then 1879 in London. By the mid 1880’s we had land lines in every major city of the US. In 1927 we got the first wireless connection across the Atlantic (?) and then a hardwire transatlantic telephone connection in 1956 so 36 people could be talking across the big pond at the same time. I think I heard somewhere that they pulled these cables across the ocean using the old telegraph cables. Details are again a little fuzzy.

Alex should have kept working with Jimmy on that WIFI stuff. Imagine what could have happened if they did.

In 1880 Alex and one of his friends demonstrated the first video phone. No one used it until many years later because in the demonstration they sneaked up on a guy fooling around with his assistant and everyone agreed, let’s not do this ever again.

In 1940, some dude named George direct connected his Teletype to his Complex Number Calculator in New York City and got a dumb terminal in New Hampshire to show the results. I heard the results were to this complex math equation, “If Bob had 3 apples and he gave Steve 2, how long would his wife let him stay out on a Friday night?” The answer that showed up on the dumb terminal was, “Get your butt home now!”

In the 1960’s a group of guys created something called packet-switching which allowed lots of guys to calculate these important equations at the same time without having to use a Centralized Complex Number Calculator, or Mainframe.

The first step to a full World Wide Web began with ARPANET and RPC in 1969 with a whopping 4 nodes or dudes with big questions that needed to be answered.

In 1973 they extended this network over the big pond so their buddies in Norway could get help as well. Soon afterwards another guy in London got his wire connected too. I wonder what the chat sessions looked like back then, “Did you see the size of the vacuum tubes on that chassis? Woohoo!”

It took until 1981 to get 213 nodes (dudes) on the original World Wide Web.

Lots more techie stuff started to happen at an even faster high tech pace. Including:

Local are networks came around in the 1970’s, Token Ring around 1974 and Ethernet in 1976

SMTP came about around 1982, UDP in 1982, TCP and IPv4 in 1981, Http version 1.0 in 1996

Finally the real WWW became widespread late 1990’s, using the old telephone and television networks. Then the really cool stuff started to happen.

We’ll catch up on the cool stuff in Part 2 of the class.