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History of Communication

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Essay title: History of Communication

HISTORY OF COMMUNICATION

Better than shouting

Communication begins with language, the distinctive ability which has made possible the evolution of human society. With language any message, no matter how complex, can be conveyed between people over a limited distance - within a room or place of assembly, or across a short open space. In modern times 'town criers' hold an annual contest to discover which of them can shout a comprehensible message over the greatest distance. The world record is less than 100 metres. Already, at that short range, a more practical alternative is to run with the message.

The history of communication is mankind's search for ways to improve upon shouting.

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When running with a message, to convey it in spoken form, it is safer to do it oneself. Sending anyone else is unreliable, as the game of Chinese whispers demonstrates. So another requirement for efficient communication is a system of writing.

Messages carved on stone pillars communicate very well across time, down through the centuries, but they are an inefficient method of communicating across space. The message reads only within reading range; its recipients must travel to receive it. The system is altogether more efficient if it is the message which travels. This requires yet another ingredient in the communication package - a portable writing material such as papyrus.

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There are forms of long-distance communication not based on words. The smoke signals used by American Indians (above all perhaps in westerns) are of this kind. So are bonfires lit in succession on a line of hilltops. But such devices are only capable of conveying very limited pre-arranged signals, such as 'danger' or 'victory'.

Some non-verbal systems are more sophisticated. The whistled language of Gomera, in the Canary islands, is used to communicate across deep valleys. It is well adapated to the islanders' immediate needs, but would be incapable of sending this paragraph as an accurate message. For communication of this kind writing remains indispensable.

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Post haste: 6th century BC

The sending of written messages is a standard feature of government in early civilizations. Much of our knowledge of those times derives from archives of such messages, discovered by archaeologists.

There is great advantage to a ruler who can send or receive a message quicker than his rivals. In the estimation of the ancient

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