This article highlights the legendary inventions in communication and media, which have significantly altered our lifestyle. It endeavors to bring forth the varied developments in the field of today’s communication channel, which can be traced back to the very beginning of human civilization.
1. Color printing
Playing cards were printed in several colors since the 9th century. This technique must have begun in China. The procedure involved applying different colored inks to a block of engraved woods, which then simply had to go to the press. Gutenberg adopted this to achieve the letters printed in red in the “Bible of 42 lines.” The books, with initial letters in two colors, and the large initial letter of the Psalter, were printed in 1457 by Peter Schoffer. This comprised of red and blue patterns. In 1756, in France, a process based on transparent inks was published, in which the intensity of each color in the final printing was due to the density of the mezzotint frame. This process was successful and resembles four-color printing, using zinc plates.
Papyrus was made from the fibers of a plant which was common in the Nile Valley. The word ‘paper’ has been derived from the plant, and was scraped off, intertwined and pressed by craftsmen and finally left to dry. Tsai Lun made paper from cellulose scraps; this consisted of mulberry tree fibers, old rags, and fishing nets stepped in water, crushed and pressed. The use of paper spread throughout China first, then to Asia and finally to the rest of the world. Therefore, by the 14th century, there were paper mills all over Europe. Till 1798, the paper was made in separate and shaped sheets. In the same year, the Frenchman Nicolas Louis Robert invented the first process of continuous manufacture, using the principle of a conveyor belt.
3. Photographic film
Before the invention of the photographic film, the photosensitive media had been the sheet of albumenated glass, albumen paper, the collodion plate, the dry plates of bromide on gelatine and the negative paper (George Eastman and William H. Walter). The negative paper was the one to be put on a reel. This had to be mounted on a glass for prints to be produced. The final step was made with the transparent film, which would eventually replace the glass and be used directly for making prints.
The first newspaper was created by Julius Caesar in 59 BC. This consisted of many copies of handwritten parchment sheets which were posted on to the main buildings of Rome. These were called acta diurna, and carried reports on edicts, events, results of battles, judgements, nominations, naval and military news, executions, births, marriages and deaths. However, between 618 and 607, newspapers were published in China, which carried official news. This kind of newspaper lasted until 1911. In London, around 1590 and 1610, a more or less regular newspaper, which gave news of the continent, appeared. It was called the Mercurius Gallobelgicus. But the Dutchman Abraham Verhoeven, around 1605, was undoubtedly the first one to start a newspaper which was popular because of its greater frequency and regularity of publication, and also because it consisted of a variety of information. The first British newspapers were the Corante, in 1621, and the Weekly News, in 1622. Further, the first daily paper was the Daily Courant (1720) and the first evening paper was the Courier (1792).
In 1832, the Belgian Joseph Plateau made a disc with holes around the edge on one side and an image representing a girl skipping on the other. This disc was placed in front of a mirror and rotated on its axis continuously. As the disc rotated, a continuous movement could be seen through the vents. The actual progress towards cinema took place as a result of two inventions. One was the work of the French astronomer Jules Janssen in 1874, and the other was an American Thomas Edison’s Kinetoscope in 1891. According to Janssen, a large number of successive pictures of a moving object could be taken. Janssen obtained 48 pictures of the planet Venus passing in front of the Sun in 72 seconds, whereas Thomas Edison displayed a chain of successive images on celluloid tape. Present day cinema was born when the brothers, George and Louis Lumiere, combined the inventions of their predecessors. They ensured a regular unraveling of the celluloid tape. This tape carried the images by making perforations in the film, which was held by cogwheels.
6. Postal system
The first postal relay stations were proved to have existed in Persia, in the 6th century BC. The ancient Greeks, however, had their own messenger services in each state town. With the rise of the Roman Empire, vast networks, for the distribution of administrative documents, were created and were called the cursus publicus. During that time, mail was taken on horseback. The first postage stamp was printed in Great Britain in 1834. It was adopted by France in 1848 on the initiative of the general manager of the French Post Office. The prepaid postcard adopted in the UK in 1870 cost 1/2 d. The serrated stamps made their first appearance in the UK in 1854, thus making it easier to detach single stamps. In 1911, to celebrate the coronation of King George V in Britain, the first airmail was run between Hendon and Windsor. In 1919, the first regular air postal service was introduced between London and Paris.
7. Press agency
On the basis of written agreement, in 1835, the Frenchman Charles Havas created the first press agency. This agency had access to important information due to its government contacts. With the invention of the telegraph, information could be dispatched abroad. In 1851, the German Baron Von Reuter had the idea of opening a telegraphic transmission agency in London. But he limited his activities to the transmission of commercial dispatches, which were sent out by carrier pigeons. Re-transmission of the report of an important speech by Napoleon III was the first item taken up by the Reuter agency. And thus it became a press agency in 1858. Since 1848, many American newspapers shared the costs of the telegraphic transmission of dispatches. Six of them formed Associated Press, whose correspondents informed them about the progress of the American Civil War (1861-1865).
William Burt of Detroit, USA, was granted a patent in 1829 for a machine called a typographer. In this, the type was mounted on a rotating semicircular frame and depressed against the paper by the operation of a lever. After attempting to make a practical version in 1867, with improvements, Christopher Latham Sholes sold his machine, ‘the literary piano’, to a firm of gunsmiths called E. Remington and Sons. This company sold the machine commercially from 1874. The first machine made by Remington was not successful as it was bulky, expensive and difficult to handle. For a long time, the person who typed could not see the text. In 1890, the American John N. Williams made a machine in which the text was visible and thus made the machine popular. The American writer Mark Twain was the first to submit a typed manuscript.
Though all the necessary technological equipment existed for making a telephone, it was only in 1861 that Reis got around to doing it. He was the first one to achieve the transmission of sound from a distance. He made a transmitter in which the electric circuit consisted of a metallic point, in contact with a metallic band, which rested on a membrane. Bell and Elisha Gray had an idea of transmitting several telegraphic messages at the same time using one electric wire. Together, they devised the principle of the harmonic telephone. Gray and Bell, however, were not able to achieve convincing results. After several attempts, on March &, 1876, Bell registered his patent and succeeded in transmitting the voice through a transmitter. The invention was commercialized at the beginning of 1877, when the first telephone exchange was built at Hartford. The first intercity connection was made between New York and Boston, in 1883.
In 1884, the German Paul Nipkow registered a device which involved the conversion of a picture into a series of lines. These lines are made up of points of different intensities of light. These were transmitted using electromagnetic waves of different intensity and frequency. Subsequently, these were converted into currents of different frequency and intensity. In 1934, the Russian Vladimir Kosma Zworykin invented the iconoscope. In it, the image to be transmitted was projected on a screen of photo-electric cells at the base of the cathode tube. With the impact of light, each cell lost its electrons and the induced current obtained an intensity corresponding to the level of brightness of the cell and released the video signal during scanning.