0101 A Brief History Of Communication

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A Brief History Of Communication

evolution - image creator unknown

This is a little post about something you may never have thought about before: The single, unique problem that the web solves. The extra functionality it offers that didn’t exist for the first few billion years of the planet.

It’s just a simple little fact but, when you understand it, you will understand a little more about what everyone’s doing on the web. It’s a piece of knowledge that will open new opportunities for you.

Here it is - presented in a brief history of communication…


The Word

1:1 Audio Communication - The Same Place At The Same Time

In the beginning… (everyone knows this one) … was the word. And the word was spoken by one person to one other person. And both had to be in the same room at the same time.

The Cave Painting:

1-to-1 Text Communication - Same Place, Different Times

Next came the cave painting. This was a big step forward: You no longer had to be in the same room at the same time to understand what someone had to say. You just had to be in the room some time after they’d written it.

The Stone Tablet:

1-to-1 Text Communication - Any Place, Any Time

And then came portability: The written word on stone tablets. This was great - you didn’t need to be in the same time or place as someone to communicate with them. You just had to have a method of getting your stone tablet to them.

The Printing Press

1-to-Many Text Communication - Any Place, Any Time

Next came a huge leap forward. In 1476 a guy called William Caxton set up a ridiculous contraption called a ‘Printing Press’. What did this mean? It meant that one person could now communicate with many people - and - best of all - they didn’t need to be in the same place or the same time. Anyone who could afford a printing press & could gather together some content, could create a printed document that could reach anyone, anywhere, at any time.

The Telephone

1-to-1 Audio Communication - Any Place, Same Time

Yep - any one person can talk to any other without the need to be in the same place. But they’ve each got to be on one end of a phone line at the same time.

Radio & Television

1-to-Many Audio / Visual Communication - Different Place, Same Time

The biggest things to happen in a few hundred years. One person in a studio somewhere could now talk to the masses - as long as they were sitting by their TV/radio at broadcast time.

The Web & The Internet

Many-to-Many Text, Audio, Visual Communication - Any Place, Any Time

Here it is: on the web, anyone can say anything and it can be read by anyone else, anywhere else, at any time. That’s it. So you can publish something now & a thousand other people can read it in the next hour & re-edit/re-publish it instantly for a thousand others. Or you could write something, only to be read by one person a year for the next ten years - each exactly when they most need it.

Communication on the web is time & location independent, and it allows many people to communicate with many others all at once.

This is the interesting, exciting bit about the web (and about ‘web 2.0′). It’s not the tools. It’s not the technology. It’s the way in which it allows us to communicate as we’ve never before been able, and it’s what that means for us as societies, as businesses, as individuals.


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