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  Report: Timeline of Communication Systems

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 WORLD-INFOSTRUCTURE > TIMELINE OF COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS > 1000 B.C. - 0
  1000 B.C. - 0


900 B.C.
A postal service is used for governmental purposes in China.

500 B.C.
In ancient Greece trumpets, drums, shouting, beacon, fires, smoke signals, and mirrors are used for message transmission.

4th century B.C.
Aeneas Tacitus' optical communication system

Aeneas Tacitus, a Greek military scientist and cryptographer, invented an optical communication system that combines water and beacon telegraphy. Torches indicated the beginnings and the ends of a message transmission while water jars were used to transmit the messages. These jars had a plugged standard-size hole drilled on the bottom side and were filled with water. As those who sent and those who received the message unplugged the jars simultaneously, the water drained out. Because the transmitted messages corresponded to water levels, the sender indicated by a torch signal that the appropriate water level had been reached. The methods disadvantage was that the possible messages were restricted to a given code, but as the system was mainly used for military purposes, this was offset by the advantage that it was almost impossible for outsiders to understand the messages unless they possessed the codebook.

With communication separated from transportation, the distant became near. Tacitus' telegraph system was very fast and not excelled until the end of the 18th century.

For further information see Joanne Chang & Anna Soellner, Decoding Device, http://www.smith.edu/hsc/museum/ancient_inventions/decoder2.html

3rd century B.C.
Wax tablets are used as writing material in Mesopotamia, ancient Greece, and Etruria.

2nd century B.C.
In China paper is invented.

1st century B.C.
Codices replace scrolls

The use of codices instead of scrolls - basically the hardcover book as we know it today - is an essential event in European history. To quote accurately by page number, to browse through pages and to skip chapters - things that were impossible when reading scrolls - becomes possible.

In the computer age we are witnesses to a kind of revival of the scrolls as we scroll up and down a document. The introduction of hypertext possibly marks the beginning of a similar change as has taken place with the substitution of scrolls with codices.




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Timeline of Communication Systems
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Chappe's fixed optical network
Claude Chappe built a fixed optical network between Paris and Lille. Covering a distance of about 240kms, it consisted of fifteen towers with semaphores.

Because this communication system was destined to practical military use, the transmitted messages were encoded. The messages were kept such secretly, even those who transmit them from tower to tower did not capture their meaning, they just transmitted codes they did not understand. Depending on weather conditions, messages could be sent at a speed of 2880 kms/hr at best.

Forerunners of Chappe's optical network are the Roman smoke signals network and Aeneas Tacitus' optical communication system.

For more information on early communication networks see Gerard J. Holzmann and Bjoern Pehrson, The Early History of Data Networks.