Exploring the previous eras and ways of telecommunication untill they progressed to the current state.
In these fast-paced days where people send billions of messages every day whizzing across the globe, we tend to omit from our heads the early beginnings of telecommunication that was used by our ancestors. What did people do when they wanted to send messages across? What means did they have at their disposal and how did they utilize them?
Unlike many of the futile messages today, telecommunication back then came about from a real urge. People needed to communicate danger or messages that were crucial to their survival. Fire was the first tool that people figured out how to harness, not only for its warmth but because light could be seen from a long distance. It was an effective tool that can direct predetermined messages between cities, using a relay of many fire torches and people along the way. In ancient Greece, the news of the Greek victory traveled within a few hours from the city of Troy 600 kilometers to the city of Argos using such a system.
North American tribes capitalized fire in another way to create an even more effective communication tool. They sent their messages by way of Smoke Signals. Every tribe had its own pattern of smoke signals conveying different messages across a large area. A smoke signal from the top of a hill usually meant “danger” to the rest of the tribe. The Chinese also used smoke signals to alert cities of any attacks through many stations, traveling over a distance of 750 kilometers.
In areas where visibility was an issue or big fires were not an option, such as those who lived in the jungles, they turned to another tool. They used drums to telegraph messages at the speed of over 160 kilometers in an hour.
The effectiveness of the above methods of telecommunications relied on many people to create a continuous chain. This meant that if any of the people within the system fell asleep or did not pay attention, the system was compromised and the fate of the message and its purpose was doomed. Also, those messages were not private at all, but broadcast for all to hear or see.
That is why pigeons were used later on to send messages. It was more reliable and private. Two types of pigeons were able to fulfill that purpose: Racing Pigeons and Homing Pigeons. These type of pigeons can travel for hundred of kilometers with a message safely attached to their feet.
These pigeons always flew home, which is why to send a message you had to have a native pigeon from where you want your message to go. As soon as the bird is released, it will fly home. However, these pigeons could also be trained to fly to other locations by experts, where they would create a safe environment for pigeons over multiple locations.
Later on, enemies caught on to this method and were able to intercept these messages by shooting them down.
One heroic racing pigeon called “Cher Ami”, which means “Dear Friend” in French, was given a War Cross medal award for her help in saving 194 soldiers in World War One. The troops were surrounded with no food or ammunition for two whole days, and had their first two pigeons sent for help shot down by the Germans. Upon sending Cher Ami with their help message, the bird was shot to the ground. Despite her chest wound and being blinded in one eye, Cher Ami flew again over 40 kilometers in just 25 minutes and delivered the message to their allies. The troops survived and later Cher Ami was inducted into the Racing Pigeon Hall of Fame in the USA.
In these days, most of these methods are deemed obsolete due to modern technology, but one entity still uses smoke signals to this day. The Vatican City still carries the tradition of announcing its election results of the new Pope through smoke signals. Black smoke for no decision yet, and white smoke to announce the new Pope.
Clearly, communication has come a long way, as with such ease we can interact with each other. Through a click of a button or a simple voice command, we can get our message across the globe. However, what is the content of our messages today? I think we ought to be more careful and exercise some restraint when it comes to communication. We are surpassing the age of information and embarking on a new journey in the age of misinformation. Since our feed is constantly bombarded with falsehood and ‘fake news’, we need to think twice before we push that send button.