What is Telecommunications?

By Leann Toomey

As I started this project at the request of Northern California WICT back in August 2014, (I am now a proud board member taking on the role of Webmaster) I started telling people about this organization. One question I received was; what is telecommunications? This person told me they had heard the word but didn't know what it was fundamentally.  I gave a brief summary of the definition although telecommunications is so much more than just physics, transmissions, and more cabling than anyone can imagine. Telecommunications connects communities. It is critical to our lives and provides a connection between communities that breaks down the barriers of the old and stale. Telecommunications is arguably one of the most important and one of the oldest industries.

First examples can be found in ancient times as smoke signals, drums and papyrus. The first modern attempts at visual communications by Claude Chappe in France (1792) are still found in Europe. Later, Alexander Graham Bell is legally credited with inventing the telephone in 1874, patent issued on March 7, 1876. This was followed shortly by the first telephone exchange on March 10th 1876 (via AT&T!) between Alexander and his assistant Watson. From telephone, science lead us to Radio (to which I have a proud heritage), to television, to the computer, and finally to 1968 when a group of 4 schools (UC Los Angeles, UC Santa Barbara, Stanford - now SRI Institute,  and University of Utah) came together to participate in a program called ARPANET. Prime objective of the ARPANET project was to get data (packets) from a primary computer on one hub to a secondary computer on another hub, creating a network of multiple computers. The technologies that came from this project are the fundamental building blocks of what will become the internet as we know it today. Meanwhile, the cellular phone is going through it’s first attempts at a viable wireless network (~1987). 25 years later, we have a Mobile 4G LTE wireless network.

All this technology is necessary for communications and vital to changing the landscape of our modern world. From family members talking across the country, to the powerful elite changing the political landscape of the world with a phone call or email. For the good, the bad, and the ugly, telecommunications has allowed us to connect with our home, state, country, and finally to the rest of the world!

There are so many events, but some of the most profound events to happen in the last century the world saw as a result of telecom (either broadcast on Radio, Television, or Internet, or mobile communication):

Navajo Code Talkers: As early as 1914 - 1918, 1939 -1945

First long range television broadcast: 1927

The First televised Olympic games: 1936

Church Hill declares war on BBC (1938)

The Coronation of Queen Elizabeth: 1953

War of the Worlds broadcast: 1968

Moon Landing: 1969

Collapse of the Berlin Wall: 1989 (disputed)

OJ Simpson Verdict: 1995

Oklahoma City Bombing: 1995

911 Footage: 2001

Hubble telescope: 1990 - Present

The Afghan War: 2001 - present

Anonymous (Internet vigilante group): 2001 from 4Chan

WikiLeaks: 2006

Arab Spring: 2010

Many of these events were pointed out for different reasons, but all would not have been possible without the technology of telecom and the ability to distribute this technology to the masses. In this sense, it connected us to a world we may not have been exposed to. It also gave rise to revolutions! Arab spring was made possible by bypassing the normal media which had been cut off by their governments. The same “Spring” also gave a new generation of people an insight to other cultures in a new light. Many were finally able to see the many different angels, rather than those given by main stream media. This same access to information challenges the preconceived ideas of cultures and works towards education. Telecommunications is/has broken down barriers towards intolerance and ignorance by allowing access to open discussion with people from many sides of every argument. Alternatively, it also has brought out the bad. With everything at our fingertips, Darknet, cyber bullying, radical pundits, and  extreme vigilantism are also a reality of the technology available to us. While some of these are not illegal, these are the dark side to having open communications with the world.

Modern telecommunications will continue to be critical in the future of our digital age and we must foster education and community that can support open collaboration via the internet and TV broadcast. No longer are we, as a race, bound to a physical presence to make decisions that affect many. Modern telecom, has turned  from “them” to “us”. Gone are the walls of language, separation, and censorship. Had the infrastructure not existed for telecom technology, how could we understood what is going on in our world.  "Would we be where we are now”?

This is the modern telecom civilization. It has shaped us to be more involved and concerned with world events. Because it has given us the ability to expose us to the truth as we define it. It connects a wider community that ever before. This makes us connected as The Human Race, without country and borders.

Telecom connects the world.

Posted on November 2, 2014 .