Communication Throughout History

The need to convey information to others through communication is weaved into the fabric of mankind. People communicate for survival, companionship, business relationships and so much more. At infancy babies begin learning how to communicate when they first hear spoken language. Newborn babies can easily differentiate between the sounds of human voices, and noise coming from the television or other sources. These days communication comes in many forms, which allows people to make connections with others across long distances.

Early Communication Methods

Man began communicating with cave paintings and possibly primitive spoken language around 30,000 B.C.E. Cave walls displayed art that sent peaceful, aggressive and neutral messages. Primitive man used stone to permanently etch drawings of animals, symbols, trees and other messages into cave walls. They also created colorful drawings by using ground fruit juice, colored minerals and other animal blood. As time went on people began communicating through story telling before they were able to write the written word. Stories were passed to different tribes and then passed on to the next generation. People learned to communicate with tools such as drums, and smoke signals, although these methods were not used by all tribes.

  • The History of Visual Communication
  • Cave Art: Discovering Prehistoric Humans through Pictures
  • Augmentative and Alternative Communication

Early Handwritten Documents/Books

As time went on people began communicating through the written word. All sorts of languages developed and people started handwriting books. Vellum paper was used to craft these handwritten books that soon became widely available. Several books and documents were created for religious purposes. Only very educated or wealthy people read these books because literacy was very low. Religious books were the most common during the 7th and 13th century. After the 13th century, secular books were produced for knowledge and enjoyment.

  • Old Handwritten Documents
  • The Thomas Jefferson Papers at the Library of Congress
  • Early American Handwriting

Printing Press

In 1448, Johann Gutenberg invented the printing press. The press contained movable blocks with pre-printed text. Once the press went into production, Gutenberg printed the Latin speech book. The invention was used to print bibles and gradually more printing presses were created. More books were produced gradually as literacy rates improved.

  • The Printing Press and a Changing World
  • Benjamin Franklin and His Printing Press
  • The Atlas of Early Printing

Letter Writing and the Postman

People have been writing letters to communicate for centuries. Initially people would send letters by giving the letter to another person who was traveling. Letters were not always received by recipients, and there was no way to track it. The need for communication became even greater, so the United States developed the postal system in 1775, and Benjamin Franklin was named as the first Postmaster General. The postal system rapidly expanded, and the post office had 7,800 post offices by the year 1828. The postal service used train to transport mail all across America. People enjoyed writing letters to keep in touch with family across the country.

  • U.S. Postal System Established
  • National Postal Museum FAQ
  • Letter Writing Style of 1775


The telegraph works by sending and receiving messages through electronic signals sent through a wire. Electricity is pulled through a wire and connected to a circuit that sends messages across long distances. Each telegraph machine was powered by a battery. This machine was revolutionary because it allowed people to communicate across long distances for the first time. Americans attributed this invention to Samuel F.B. Morse, but the original machine was created by someone else.

  • History of the Telegraph
  • 1830s to 1860s Telegraph
  • The Chappe Telegraph System


In 1876, Alexander Bell invented a machine that would change the world forever. He began observing how sound and vibrations could be sent through the air and then received in a different room. He wanted to create a wire that would transmit the sound just as he heard it, but to a more distant area. He continued experimenting until he was able to successfully build the first telephone. In the beginning, telephone service was not popular because of the high cost.

  • The History of the Telephone
  • A Short History of the Telephone Industry and Regulation
  • The History of Communication Technology


The radio first came about in the early 1900?s. This method of communication was mainly used during WWI, but soon after, radio became very popular because it served as a source of entertainment. Non-commercial broadcasters began hosting their own shows around 1914, and commercial broadcasting began in 1920. In 1925 the Federal Communications Commission began regulating radio. Radios continued to become very popular, especially during the 1920?s and 1930?s. Dancing and music became an integral part of American culture.

  • The Quality that Made Radio Popular
  • The Economic History of the Radio Industry
  • The History of Radio


Photography is another form of communication that has left an impression on people throughout the generations. Pictures send messages of emotion, trial, intentions, values and so much more. Photography was first developed in the 1800?s, but it was not successful until later. People learned how to use reverse colors to create a ?negative.? The process of photography remained the same until digital technology was developed.

  • History of Photography and Photojournalism
  • Influential Gernsheim Collection Showcases History of Photography
  • Documentary Photography Online


Television became known to the public in 1939 at the New York World?s Fair. People thought it was amusing and they continued to favor other forms of communication such as radio. In the year 1940, more than four million televisions were manufactured. Yet, the average person still couldn?t afford a TV because the cost was well over $200. Televisions gradually became more popular in the United States as the cost decreased.

  • History of Television
  • Timeline of Radio and Television History
  • Exploring US History: Regulating Television

Cell Phone

The very first cell phone was actually created in 1843 by Michael Faraday. The technology was frozen until the year 1973 when Dr. Martin Cooper invented the portable cell phone. Four years later, cell phones were introduced to the public. The market grew gradually at first because few people could afford a cell phone. However, in time the cell phone industry became massive, and now more than 60 million people across the United States own cell phones.

  • History of Cellular Phones
  • The Physics of Cell Phones
  • The History and Evolution of Cell Phones


The internet was first created in 1967 for the military. The technology is based on a group of server computers that process and transmit data back and forth, allowing messages to be sent in an instant. Consumers began using the internet and it gained popularity fast. People could easily send email and instant messages quickly. Business owners and entrepreneurs built websites to promote products or their individual business. Now the internet is used just as it was in the beginning, but more people are using it and it?s much faster than it was during the dial-up days.

  • History of the Internet
  • Imagining the Internet
  • Internet Pricing and the History of Communications

Social Media and Blogging

Both social media and blogging came about because of the internet. Social media websites were created to help people contact old friends and post information and pictures about themselves. This form of communication quickly became popular as more people began getting interested in what others were doing. Blogs first came about in 1997, and this form of communication has gradually become more vital and now people blog about everything from pet care to childbirth. 

  • The 10 Key Turning Points in the History of Social Media
  • Blogs-A Short History
  • A Timeline of the History of Blogging

About me

As I started this website off with, my name is Ed. And I am, without a doubt, a near field communication enthusiast...  more

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