Report: Timeline of Communication Systems

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  1800 - 1900 A.D.

Invention of the punch card

Invented by Joseph Marie Jacquard, an engineer and architect in Lyon, France, punch cards laid the ground for automatic information processing. For the first time information was stored in binary format on perforated cardboard cards. In 1890 Hermann Hollerith used Joseph-Marie Jacquard's punch card technology to process statistical data collected during the US census in 1890, thus speeding up US census data analysis from eight to three years. Hollerith's application of Jacquard's invention was used for programming computers and data processing until electronic data processing was introduced in the 1960's. - As with writing and calculating, administrative applications account for the beginning of modern automatic data processing.

Paper tapes are a medium similar to Jacquard's punch cards. In 1857 Sir Charles Wheatstone used them for the preparation, storage, and transmission of data for the first time. Through paper tapes telegraph messages could be stored, prepared off-line and sent ten times quicker (up to 400 words per minute). Later similar paper tapes were used for programming computers.

Invention of the electrical telegraph

With Samuel Thomas Soemmering's invention of the electrical telegraph the telegraphic transmission of messages was no longer tied to visibility, as it was the case with smoke and light signals networks. Economical and reliable, the electric telegraph became the state-of-the-art communication system for fast data transmissions, even over long distances.

Click here for an image of Soemmering's electric telegraph.

Invention of the telephone

The telephone was not invented by Alexander Graham Bell, as is widely held, but by Philipp Reiss, a German teacher. When he demonstrated his invention to important German professors in 1861, it was not enthusiastically greeted. Because of this dismissal, he was not given any financial support for further development.

And here Bell comes in: In 1876 he successfully filed a patent for the telephone. Soon afterwards he established the first telephone company.

First functional underwater telegraph cable is laid across the Atlantic

Invention of the wireless telegraph

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Timeline of Communication Systems
    Timeline of Communication Systems: Introduction
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+1   1900 - 2000 A.D.
+2   2000 A.D.
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