Background: Echo I, the first communications satellite.|
The History of Mass Communications.
The Printing Press
Gutenburg invented the Printing Press 500 years ago. It took 300 years for
it to become a major political tool,in Thomas Paine's Common
Sense. This was the first time the printed word caused a revolution. (Say what you may
about the US, it started with good intentions.)
When the press was over 400 years old, "All quiet on the Western Front"
was published. It was probably the first book to fuel anti-war ideas with
a substantial portion of the population. (Unfortunately, it was at the wrong
time, because Hitler was coming to power. After the press was 450 years old,
novels were published about how a nation could discieve its people into thinking
that it was helping them, and instead was working against them in 1984 and Brave
New World. So its taken centuries for the printing press to reach its potential.
The newer forms of communications may be far from reaching their potential.
All other forms of mass
communications are less than 200 years old, and speed of light communications
were limited to a tiny proportion of the population, until radio was invented,
less than 100 years ago.
The 19th Century
Newspapers became popular. Newspapers gave
lots of information at an affordable price.
In 1832, Samuel Morse started to work on the telegraph. It was the first speed
of light communication device. Unfortunately, it only had limited uses. First,
only several letters could be transmitted per second, and it could only
be transmitted by wire. This had tragic results in The Battle of New Orleans,
where 50,000 people died. It occurred two weeks after the Civil War ended, but
because there were no wires
to New Orleans, none there knew the war was over.
The next speed of light device is the wireless telegraph. It could have saved
the lives of the soldiers in New Orleans, but it still could only transfer
a couple of letters per second, so it didn't really improve the public's
Then came the telephone, the first speed of light device to transmit information
at a "normal" speed, but it suffered the same limitation as the original
telegraph. It could only transmit to places that were wired, and many houses
weren't. In fact there was a poll done in 1936 that said Alf Landon was
going to beat FDR in a landslide. The problem with that poll was done
over the phone, and many Democrats still didn't have phones.
The 20th Century
Radio becomes the first universally used (in developed countries)
speed of light communications device.
After WWII, television becomes popular, then color television. Both add
realism to mass communications.
In 1960, the first commercial communications satelite,Echo,is launched.
It's capable of transmitting telephone calls.
In 1962, Telstar is launched. It's the first satellite capable of transmitting
one TV show, or it can transmit 600 phone calls.
About 1995 The internet starts gaining popularity with the public.
Compare the age of Speed of Light Communications in 1998 (94)with the 300 years it
took for The Printing Press to become a major political tool!
Radio 94 years old
TV became popular about 53 years old.
Satellite TV - which now sends many stations across the oceans
36 years old
The Internet becomes popular 3 years ago.
As an example, in my 2 years on the net, I haven't seen a
good proposal to use the net for political education.
However, I came up with a proposal
that seems to have alot of potential.
Index Everything for activists!