Electronic Communications

The average person uses a lot of electricity in the many things they do every day. We are used to being able to turn on a light, watch the television, use our mobile devices, and stream music or videos. Because electricity is so much a part of our lives, we should know something about it.

The advancement in communications over the last 100 years or so has been at lightning speed. Where it once took months or even years to get messages from one place to another, we now have instantaneous communications.

The change began with the invention of the telegraph and then the telephone. Since then new innovations and inventions have created a digital communication age that gives us smart phones and high definition video from the internet.

The Telegraph

The invention of Morse Code developed by Samuel Morse in 1836 used a series of dashes and dots that allowed signals to be sent through the telegraph that represented words and phrases

. This was a form of electronic communication and countries all over the world began to build and add the electric cables required to send Morse Code. A message could be sent from one side of a country to another that was thousands of miles away in just a matter of minutes.

The Telephone

It took 40 years from the invention of the telegraph for Alexander Graham Bell to get patent approval for his invention of the telephone. Instead of the dots and dashes, the telephone could transmit a person’s voice over electric wires that were long distances away.

As progress continued with the telephone, other updated inventions included fax machines and data modems that could transmit images and information over the same wiring.

A rotary dial telephone, c. 1940s

Later, large switching networks were built all over the world so that telephones could be used in every home. Smaller switching networks were then added to local towns so that there was a network of switches sending the calls everywhere.

Fiber Optics

People made use of the switch networks, but the requirements to send more data and information at faster speeds became a priority. The development of fiber optics came into play and these long thin tubes that were made of glass but looked more like wires could send information as light.

A bundle of optical fibers

Light travels so much faster and at higher speeds than electric pulses and slowly the old cables are being replaced with higher technology fiber optics. The fiber optic connections can send 100 billion signals each second.

Radio Frequency

Although radios have been used for many years, cell phones started to become is higher use in the 1990s, and this required more band width than the standard radios Cell phones use radio frequencies transmitted through the air.

The newer technologies give us faster signals that include everything from information and data to videos.  These have quickly replaced the old telephone lines and a majority of households got rid of their landlines and now rely completely on cell phones.

The Internet

The net is probably the most important invention for electronic communications. What began as some basic information exchange quickly expanded. The internet is made up of millions of networks that are connected with electrical and fiber optics.

Each network passes information along and is “switched” all over the world. Just about every piece of information, every book, every movie, every recorded song, and all of the world’s knowledge is now available on the internet and can be accessed in seconds from a computer.

Fun Facts about Electronic Communications

  • Of the 250 billion emails that are sent each day, about 80% of them are spam.
  • Fiber optics uses less energy, is better for the environment than electrical wires, and they are resistant to weather problems.
  • It’s estimated that there are over 4 billion cell phones in the world and more than 100 million cell phones are thrown away each year.
  • The first cell phone was invented by the Motorola company and it was really big and heavy.
  • The first telephone pole erected was in 1876.
  • Every minute there is about twenty hours of video uploaded to YouTube.
  • The first computer screens were called CRTs (cathode ray tubes) and when you turned them on you had to use the keyboard to tell the computer the longitude and latitude of where you wanted the curser to be located on the screen.


What is Morse Code?
a communication method of dots and dashes that convert to words and phrases

Who is given credit for the patent for the telephone?
Alexander Graham Bell

What are fiber optics made of?
thin tubes of glass

What are two benefits of fiber optics?
use less energy and better for the environment

In what decade were cell phones beginning to be used more?