Communication systems have existed for thousands of years. In ancient Persia (now Iran), in the sixth century BC, there is a postal system with passenger relays to transport messages. Until the nineteenth century, this was the only way to establish a long distance communication. The time it took for a message to arrive depends on the speed of the messenger.
The use of the Electric telegraph became popular in the mid-nineteenth century. For the first time it was possible to send and receive messages prepared with a special code without delay. With the invention of the telephone in 1876, people could converse even if they were separated by hundreds, and later thousands, kilometers away.
Today, digital technology has revolutionized our communications. Digital means that all information (images, words, sounds and text) becomes strings of ones and zeros, readable for digital devices such as computers or cell phones. Today we can send millions of calls, text messages and emails immediately to anywhere in the world, thanks to computers and fiber optic cables, capable of transporting 1,000,000 million of ones and zeros per second, at the speed of light.
When digital computers were developed, shortly after World War II, they occupied rooms and were no more powerful than a modern digital clock. This may seem ridiculous when compared to current computers, but already in 1969 computers could do the calculations that helped the astronauts to land.
Since then, computers have shrunk a lot. The smaller its size and price, the greater its power and ease of use. The processing power of a computer lies in its microchip, or electronic brain: each has millions of micro switches, which are chemically processed on the surface of a silicon wafer, a chemical element found in sand. With these switches, computers can perform impressive numerical calculations, in just one second.
By connecting two or more computers, a network is created. From the roots of trees to our own brains, networks are everywhere. Connecting several simple units allows you to create very complex structures. The Internet connects hundreds of millions of computers around the world so they can access the World Wide Web, the part of the Internet that provides information in the form of Web sites. In 1993 there were only 50 sites; today they exceed 8,000 million. Thanks to this network of immense power, we can consult a large data source. We can also communicate with a friend on the other side of the world, book a flight, buy and sell products and download music. The Internet has turned the computer into the device and has reduced the world to a global village.
“We can share data, exchange ideas and partner online with people who are thousands of miles away”.
Currently computers and communication devices are so light that we can take them everywhere. In the future they will be even smaller and, in the long term, the development of quantum computing technology and DNA-based technology will produce machines that work billions of times faster than silicon-based computers.
In the next decade, most electronic devices will be connected to the World Wide Web through high-bandwidth fiber optics. In the trips, computers integrated into the clothes will be connected to satellite navigation systems that will indicate their precise situation and will allow us to download data about the local services.
Invisible sensors, integrated in public spaces, from the streets to the museums, will be able to recognize and react before our presence. These so-called “intelligent environments” will offer information appropriate to each need and preference: the route to the parking lot or to a work of art of special interest. Technology also sells: thus, billboards could automatically change at our pace to show us products that interest us in particular.
The sensors will play a very important role in the development of “affective computing”. This technology will allow computers to assess mood and react accordingly. Cars will know if we are stressed or angry and will slow down to avoid the risk of an accident. Chairs will know if we are bored, tired or frustrated and will change their position so that we are relaxed or alert. Telephones register our joy or sadness when we talk and create patterns of emotions or color that inform your interlocutor
Future generations of computers may not use silicon technology. Computers capable of taking advantage of the enormous potential of human DNA will perform calculations at an unimaginable speed. Quantum computing will use atoms and molecules to perform a large number of calculations at the same time. Future generations of computers may not use silicon technology. Computers capable of taking advantage of the enormous potential of human DNA will perform calculations at an unimaginable speed. Quantum computing will use atoms and molecules to perform a large number of calculations at the same time.
Communication technologies will offer new advantages and the old obstacles will disappear. For example, the technology of instantaneous translation will allow the interlocutor to hear in Japanese what we say in English. On the other hand, with cell phones and computers in continuous communication, satellites monitoring our situation and sensors that control us on land, privacy could be impossible. Some fear that this problem exceeds the advantages of better communication. But we are in the middle of the information age and, although the world seems smaller and smaller, the free exchange of ideas and information will occupy an increasingly prominent place.