Taming the lightning (an international perspective)
Milestones a global timeline of telecommunications and computing
(a living document 1200 BC to 2003AD so far. Under construction)

"On March 10, 1876, in Boston, Massachusetts, Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone. Thomas Watson fashioned the device itself; a crude thing made of a wooden stand, a funnel, a cup of acid, and some copper wire. But these simple parts and the equally simple first telephone call -- "Mr. Watson, come here, I want you!" -- belie a complicated past. Bell filed his application just hours before his competitor, Elisha Gray, ... What's more, though neither man had actually built a working telephone, Bell made his telephone operate three weeks later using ideas outlined in Gray's Notice of Invention, methods Bell did not propose in his own patent," Tom Farley from his Telecom history page at Privateline.com

From the electric phone to the Internet

By Keith Newman 

The timeline of telecommunications is as complex as a spider's web but certain innovations continue to propel us inextricably deeper into the information age.

This past 100 years has seen more pervasive change than history has recorded for the previous millennia. With fire, water, earth and air harnessed to some degree, and steel and steam opening up industrial horizons, humanity’s curiosity quickly extended to the harnessing lightning and splitting the atom.

Alexander Graham Bell was trying to improve the morse code telegraph when he came up with the idea for the telephone. Repair mechanic Thomas Watson helped Bell devise an apparatus for transmitting sound by electricity. On April 6, 1875, Bell obtained a patent for the multiple telegraph, and began writing the specifications for the telephone.

Far speaking's far off origins

A combination of two Greek words, 'tele' (meaning far off) and 'phone' (meaning voice or sound) became the term for 'far-speaking'.

Distance communication by means other than voice had early associations with music, dating to the early 1800s. Charles Wheatstone co-inventor of the telegraph, applied the term 'telephonic' to describe his invention as an 'enchanted lyre' which transmitted music from one room to another.

Speaking tubes were used on steamships and trains and in office walls and households to carry on conversations between parties in distant rooms. Victorian children played with string telephones (small tin cylinders with paper drumheads attached by a string).It was only to be a matter of time before the application of electricity to the concept of the string telephone would be realized.

Philipp Reis began his research in 1860, using the 'hollowed-out bung of a beer barrel, a sausage skin, a violin, and a knitting-needle' and called his invention a 'telephon' (Young, 1991, p. 5). Reis came close to inventing the electric telephone, missing only by a 'turn of a screw' (Brooks, 1976, p. 36). However, the person most closely associated with the true invention of the electric telephone remains Alexander Graham Bell (source: About.coms History of Communications )

He made his first conversation in Boston on March 10, 1876. As he was preparing to speak into the trumpet mouthpiece of his device he spilled a jar of battery acid over his clothes. The words "Mr Watson, come in here, I want you" were heard clearly in the next room where Watson was tuned to the earpiece. When news of the invention got out the chief engineer at the US Post Office declared there would be no need for such a device as there were already plenty of messenger boys. Bell went on to enable transmission of sound through a beam of light - the forerunner of today's fibre optic systems.

Thomas Edison, while trying to record telegraph messages by drawing a paraffin -coated paper tape at high speed through a receiving instrument embossed with dots and dashes, stumbled on the idea for the cylinder phonograph. On December 6, 1877 Edison recited and reproduced almost perfectly his rendition of Mary Had A Little before a small group of witnesses.

John Logie Baird invented mechanical television in London in late 1925 which was quickly overtaken by electronic television. He also made the first trans-Atlantic television transmission and invented radar and fibre optics. At Bell Laboratories another startling breakthrough would put all those previous discoveries into a new context through miniaturization.

On December 23, 1947 John Bardeen, Walter Brattain, and William Shockley invented the transistor. However it wasn't made available to US manufacturers until 1956, when a seven year-old antitrust suit against AT&T, the owners of Bell Labs, was settled required it give away licenses to manufacture transistors for US companies to replace vacuum tubes in computers.

Internet evolution:

“Internet refers to the global information system that - (i) is logically linked together by a globally unique address space based on the Internet Protocol (IP) or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons; (ii) is able to support communications using the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) suite or its subsequent extensions/follow-ons, and/or other IP-compatible protocols; and (iii) provides, uses or makes accessible, either publicly or privately, high level services layered on the communications and related infrastructure described herein,” - Federal Networking Council (FNC) resolution, unanimously passed on October 24, 1995, defining the term Internet in consultation with members of the Internet and intellectual property rights communities.

1959: Polish immigrant Paul Baran joined RAND a US ‘think tank’ RAND and began working on ways to solve cold war related military challenges, including how to ensure long distance telephone network and military command and control networks could survivie survive a nuclear attack. He devised the idea of decentralised switching so the network could operate even if many of its links and switching nodes had been destroyed. All nodes would be created equal, and able to originate, pass and receive messages with their own unique addresses. Many others began working on similar solution around the same time that would feed into what would become the first steps toward creating the Internet
The first paper on ‘packet switching theory’ had been written by at MIT by Leonard Kleinrock. His book on computer networking published in 1964, convinced his peers of the theoretical feasibility of communications using packets rather than circuits.

1962: J.C.R. Licklider, the first head of the computer research program at the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) begins discussing his ‘Galactic Network’. He envisioned “a globally interconnected set of computers through which everyone could quickly access data and programs from any site”.

1966: MIT researcher Lawrence G. Roberts further developed the computer network concept at DARPA, and published his design for the ARPAnet and began collaborating with a team from the National Physics Laboratory (NPL) in Middlesex, England and Paul Baran’s team at the RAND group which had produced a paper on packet switching networks for secure voice communications in the military in 1964. It became evident that the three groups had been working on the same objectives concurrently without knowing of each other’s efforts. 

1969: A fourth host computer was connected to the US military-base ARPAnet. The building blocks for what was to become the Internet were in now in place.

 Vinton Cerf, and fellow US Department of Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) scientist Robert Kahn worked on a a diagram on the back of an envelope. Their design would become become known as the Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) and more easily allow different kinds of networks to interconnect. It showed showed how the defence network combined with packet radio and satellite networks could evolve into what was to become the Internet.

1976: Leonard Kleinrock at MIT who helped develop packet switching theory, published the first book on the ARPAnet, which helped spread the lore of packet switching networks.

On Jan. 1, 1983, 400 or so computers hooked to what was then called ARPAnet and a communications protocol called TCP/IP. It was TCP/IP that allowed multiple networks to coexist and permitted applications like the World Wide Web to develop and thrive. In other words, it made the Internet what it is today. "This is a major milestone consider the 1st January 1983 date to be the real rollout of (the) Internet," said Vint Cerf, so-called father of the Internet

We’re a long way from waving arms and flags in semaphore and Samuel Morse’s electronic dot-dot-dash coded messages. Today the internet presents such a pervasive and powerful force for communication and change it has the world careering into a science fictional 21st century like a freight train with no brakes.

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