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  Report: Timeline of Communication Systems

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  1700 - 1800 A.D.

First typewriter patent filed

In 1714 Henry Mill got granted a patent for his idea of an "artificial machine or method" for forgery-proof writing. Still it was not before 1808 that the first typewriter proven to have worked was built by Pellegrino Turri for his visually impaired friend, the Countess Carolina Fantoni da Fivizzono. The commercial production of typewriters began in 1873.

For a brief history of typewriters see Richard Polt, The Classic Typewriter Page,

First photocopies

Searching for the Balduinist fluorescenting phosphor (Balduinischer Leuchtphosphor), an artificial fluorescent, Johann Heinrich Schulze realized the first photocopies, but did not put them into practical use.

The first optical photocopier was not patented before 1843, when William Henry Fox Talbot got granted a patent for his magnifying apparatus.

In 1847 Frederick Collier Bakewell developed a procedure for telecopying, a forerunner of the fax machine. Yet it was not before 1902 that images could be transmitted. Almost 200 years after Schulze's discovery, for the first time photo telegraphy was offered as a telecommunication service in Germany in 1922.

Fixed optical network between Paris and Lille

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 the communication system was designed for practical military use, the transmitted messages were encoded. The messages were kept such a secret that even those who transmit them from tower to tower did not capture their meaning; they 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.

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Timeline of Communication Systems
    Timeline of Communication Systems: Introduction
-3   0 - 1400 A.D.
-2   1400 - 1500 A.D.
-1   1500 - 1700 A.D.
0   1700 - 1800 A.D.
+1   1800 - 1900 A.D.
+2   1900 - 2000 A.D.
+3   2000 A.D.
+4   More and more, faster and faster, but...
Optical communication system by Aeneas Tacitus, 4th century B.C.
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 message transmissions 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 torch signal that the appropriate water level has been reached. It is a disadvantage that the possible messages are restricted to a given code, but as this system was mainly used for military purposes, this was offset by the advantage that it was almost impossible for outsiders to understand these 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,