Postage and the History of Communication

Learn about the history of communication with this factual guide

Ever since humans have had the intelligence to communicate, we have devised a plethora of different methods of communication. Communication has been absolutely crucial to our success as a species, and on all scales and in so many different situations, communication has provided the transfer of knowledge needed for us to progress. Naturally, there are many close ties between old methods of communication and the modern postage process we are familiar with – such as the Royal Mail – and this article will take a look at the history of communication, highlighting the most interesting and illuminating communication developments and methods.

The Beginnings of Communication History

Before we could devise ways to communicate, we of course needed a formal use of symbols to represent speech in physical form. The precursor to symbols was artistic expression in the form of cave paintings, which are the oldest known medium for using symbols to communicate, dating back to between 10,000 and 30,000 years ago. Such expression began with simple pictures, though it is evident that over time paintings became more sophisticated and began to contain more and more information. The mutation from pictures and writing as a method of communication is evident in the language of many cultures, for example Ancient Egypt, where there was no distinction between drawing and writing – they were viewed as the same thing. After cave paintings came rock carvings, known as petro glyphs, and pictograms. Pictograms are symbolic, presenting information in the form of a representative object or shape. Pictograms evolved into ideograms, which are a more conceptual method of using symbols to present ideas. For example, a pictogram of a star could now mean heaven, and not just its literal interpretation. Pictographs and ideographs were the basis of writing and the alphabet, with began to appear in the Bronze Age, with big examples being Egyptian hieroglyphs and the Sumerian writing system. Images can still convey an idea strongly, which is why Infographics are so popular at the moment.

Historical Communication Methods

Methods of communication have naturally evolved alongside language and writing throughout the ages. Since prehistoric times, fires were used as beacons to communicate between tribes, with the smoke signal being one of the oldest methods for communicating over long distances. From warnings of approaching enemies along the Great Wall of China, to the sophisticated communication signals developed by Native Americans, smoke signals are still used in a number of situations today. From the 6th century BC onwards, pigeons, mail, drums, heliographs, semaphores and flags were used by many different civilisations, with some methods more complicated than others. For example, semaphore lines were complicated structures, with the positioning of the structure corresponding to a certain message.

Modern History of Communication

The modern era is full of ways to communicate, with the telephone, the television, radio and the internet being the most significant and world-changing technologies. Mobile smart phones allow us to communicate from wherever we want, reaching the rest of the globe instantaneously at the touch of a button. The future could still hold many new surprises however, and there are many reasons why we should keep our ears to the ground. The Google Glass project is the first step towards the merging of biology and technology, which could have big implications for the convenience of complete future communication. The interplanetary internet is a proto-formalism for internet between the planets, which may well be important if we ever branch out from planet Earth in the future.